Letter: Water boiling over

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In ancient times, philosophers and scientists believed four classical elements of fire, water, earth and air could be used to explain the nature and complexity of all matter.

Let’s use two elements, fire and water, to explore some complex matters currently facing Laguna Beach.

According to CAL FIRE, the fire is close to home because Laguna sits squarely in a high or very high fire hazard severity zone. Additionally, massive rains like the atmospheric rivers we have recently experienced produce wildfire fuel.

Fire stations are crucial, and while the cost to build a new one depends on many factors, multiple online sources indicate it would be about $10 million.

Turning to the water discussion, let’s focus on competitive and community swimming pools here.

The city is actively evaluating whether to build and operate its own pool or join the school district in the $16 million Olympic-sized facility the school board approved at the high school (HS).

One might think that could make sense and be an easy decision, but for the city, it certainly is not. A pool that size more than doubles the annual operating costs for the city to $1.2 million, and as designed, it would completely eliminate the baby/wading pool.

Even worse, despite doubling the size and tripling capacity, the massive pool still doesn’t handle the rush hour period directly after school because it solves the wrong problem.

Too many kids are trying to get in during a tight time window who must wait until HS activities are done. Resident swimmers are also excluded after work because they cannot swim while school-age kids are in the pool.

Meanwhile, before and after this traffic jam period and nearly all weekend long, this massive body of water would sit virtually empty like a huge lake.

To support the city, analysis confirmed by staff shows a pool the same size as the one currently at the HS with a small extra space for the baby/wading pool would accommodate all the programs it administers and support all community needs. These programs represent 70% of all activity at the current pool and everything except HS usage.

If the city builds its own pool, all programs will move there except HS activities.

Interestingly, HS competitive regulations are exceeded by a pool that could be up to 30% smaller than what was approved and save the district millions of dollars that could be used to support STEM or other educational programs.

Over an expected 50-year life of the pool and assuming a 3% inflation rate, the city would spend over $135 million just to operate the Olympic-sized pool.

Alternatively, if the city builds and operates its own pool, it would save about $60 million, including construction costs over the same period.

As a taxpayer, what do you want the city and school district to do?

Both can and should have a new pool, so let’s optimize the solution for both entities to save millions of dollars for both that can be used to address many other needs.

The district can get a new pool, save millions and support all of its needs. The city can also get a new pool and have money left over to build fire stations and address other critical needs.

There are viable options, but they will require cooperation and compromise by everyone with a vested interest.

Steve Brown, Laguna Beach

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