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Council Wades Into City Pool Issues


by: Ruarri Serpa

Oceanside CA- In the run-up to the budget vote, advocates for a revitalized pool were among the few who voiced how they wanted the city to allocate its money for the 2014-2015 budget. Swimmers, coaches and parents spoke at two City Council meetings about getting the Brooks Street Pool in shape for high school competition, but the seemingly innocuous request left City Council divided.

The Council agreed on the need for a regulation pool, and Mayor Wood and Deputy Mayor Sanchez supported the pool study as a step towards restoring city services that were cut during the recession. The Council majority of Jerry Kern, Jack Feller and Gary Felien opposed the city providing the only funds going to the pool, and instead called for partnerships with Oceanside Unified and Mira Costa College. They also supported the idea of letting the teams rent time from proposed private pools at El Corazon.

What Brooks Street advocates want is to increase the size of the pool to 40-yards by 25-yards, and replace the filtration system that was installed in the 1970s – standard requirements if the city wants to have strong swimming programs. But the bill for the repairs could cost millions of dollars.

In the June 6 vote, they settled on $10,000 for a study – far too little to accomplish anything, according to Sanchez.

“We have the money [for a study]. It’s just a question of priorities,” Sanchez said, who was in support of getting a more thorough study worked into the capital improvement plan.

One of the priorities that she criticized includes the $1.7 million engineering study of the proposed Melrose Drive extension. That project is on permanent hold with the current composition of the Council, since the project would require a four-fifths Council vote to begin. The City would have to purchase land and demolish homes in order to connect the two existing sections of Melrose Drive. Both Wood and Sanchez are against the extension, though Wood ultimately voted for the budget.

Kern’s position is that Oceanside Unified is a stakeholder in the pools, and should contribute to any renovations. If the schools can build football stadiums and theaters, let them share the cost, said Kern, a former teacher.

The proposed changes would give the high school swim and water polo teams a place to practice and hold competitions – becoming the only such pool in Oceanside.

The city kept the public pool at Brooks Street open throughout the recession, but the dimensions are completely wrong for any regulation size pool: it is too long, too shallow, and too narrow for competitive swimming or water polo. And because it’s a public pool, the teams have to rent time from the city for the few available openings. The increased pool size would allow two teams to practice at once, which would create openings for more youth teams, and generate revenue for the city.

There have also been maintenance issues over the years, according to both the swimmers and Council members: the surface and pipes were finally replaced last year, but the heating system is a big-ticket item that is yet to be resolved. A new heating system would save big money for the city in the long-run, since Oceanside currently pays more than neighboring cities for a smaller volume of water, according to El Camino High Water Polo Coach Garrett Lutz.

And while most pools’ temperatures are between 80 and 81 degrees – Brooks Street sits at 86 degrees.

“It’s the hottest pool in North County,” Lutz said.

For Wood and Sanchez the issue of the pool gets right to their plans to restore staff and programs that were cut during the recession.

But the council majority maintains a solid low-expenditure vision, and pins any plans for the pool on partnerships with the schools and colleges, or on private development at El Corazon. Two members of the majority, Council members Kern and Felien, are up for re-election this year, which would mean a tough sell for their trimmed-budget platform.

On June 6, City Council adopted a budget with a 4-1 vote, which also included $60,000 to open the Marshall Street Pool this summer.

ruarri_surpa_125Ruarri Serpa is a freelance reporter from Oceanside, CA. You can contact him directly at RuarriS@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @Ruarris

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