Letter: Swimming forward together

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The March 12 city council meeting is around the corner, where a discussion of a city-owned Community Pool is scheduled to occur.

While it doesn’t make sense for the city to join the mega Olympic competition pool project pushed and approved by the school district, other good options would be better for both entities, benefit taxpayers, make more water available for aquatics overall, keep the baby pool, and fully support the kids and residents of Laguna Beach.

Consider that the city already pays 97% of total operating costs at the current pool and handles staffing, scheduling, maintenance and management. While the school district pays 30% of some stuff, it only amounts to 3% of the total. In short, that means the city essentially already pays for, operates and maintains its own pool – but that pool just sits on school district land.

What if the city had its own pool somewhere else in Laguna, so the high school pool could just be dedicated to high school student aquatics and high school only needs?

What if having two pools in Laguna was LESS expensive for BOTH the city and the school district? While this sounds counterintuitive, it is true and makes complete sense when you drill down a bit deeper.

For its part, the city could build a pool similar in size to what exists today, including the baby pool. It would put that pool on city-owned land, and multiple possible locations that could work have been identified.

By doing this, the city would capture 100% access to all time slots for city programs and resident use, as it would no longer have scheduling conflicts with high school programs. Such a pool would substantially boost dedicated capacity for residents, get non-high school-age kids home earlier at night, meet latent demand for new programs, and fully support all city-run aquatics programs.

Building and operating any pool costs money, of course, but the Olympic mega pool proposed by the school district costs much more. A pool that size would nearly double the city’s current annual operating costs to an estimated $1.2 million per year, based on data from experts who analyze and advise municipalities and schools on this sort of thing. By comparison, if the city had its own pool, operating costs would be close to what they are today because it is already paying nearly all of the total.

From the city’s perspective, even if it paid nothing for the mega pool construction costs, it would still be worse off by as much as $60 million over the estimated life of the pool. This is because operating costs jump significantly, and it even assumes a lower rate of inflation than the long-term average.

Imagine what the city could do with all the money it would save and now be able to spend on other priorities like power line undergrounding, sewer repair, new fire stations and much more.

From the high school perspective, consider that if the school district had its own state-of-the-art rightsized competitive pool, it could save millions vs what is proposed, host home games and still exceed all CIF competition requirements.

Having its own dedicated pool means the high school would also capture 100% of the time slots at its own pool, sharply increasing program and usage capacity and flexibility for high school coaches and high school student-athlete programs. This pool could be the same size as the large one recently built at the much bigger Marina High in Huntington Beach to serve its more than 2,200 student population vs only 877 here. Of note, while water polo teams field similar numbers of players, these large schools have many more swimmers on their swim teams.

There are good pool options, so let’s seek to do what makes the best sense for all of Laguna Beach as we move forward: serve the entire community, meet city needs and save tax dollars.

Steve Brown, Laguna Beach

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1 COMMENT

  1. All logic has been expressed continuously and I personally am unaware of how our CC feels about this, the whole thing makes no sense and to have tax money spent like this at this particular time, with what is going on in the world..every bone in my body says “stop”. I would hope that our City Council, since our city will need to take care of so much (taxpayer), traffic, parking, insurance, operating costs and the list goes on, It doubles in fact, how much are we as a community are going to keep approving (and in this case, we have no say) huge expenditures..will our council stick up for us? not sure..let us all be vigilant !! Please show up and show up for your neighbors that live in this area.. For major swim competitions, wouldn’t a participant go to Irvine which is in the map for a competition pool or Mission Viejo which hosts this all the time, bottom line, we don’t need to enter the fray…we really are not like other cities…we have no room..

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