His Voice: Swim center needs collaboration, solid answers
by Dave Helm / Submitted to the Tracy Press
Apr 06, 2012 | 2581 views | 14 14 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On April 3, the City Council had a special meeting to conduct a workshop to review the proposed 2012-13 fiscal year capital improvement plan (CIP).

There were three options presented to the City Council for consideration in allocating approximately $7.1 million in Fund 301 money for capital projects. During the course of the discussion, it became readily apparent that the option with the greatest public benefit was the third option, which consisted of constructing a new animal shelter, a new fire station on Grant Line Road, a police firearms training facility, park and playground improvements, and a new 25-meter competition pool at Dr. Powers Park.

The major drawback with the proposed pool contained in Option 3 is that according to staff, it would create a net loss of approximately $273,000 to the city’s general fund. It also became apparent that the swim center advocates did not feel a 25-meter competition pool would suit their needs, and that they would need a 52-meter pool.

I think it is safe to say that the other four capital improvements projects set forth in Option 3 are projects that will (and should) be approved by the City Council for construction during the upcoming fiscal year. They are winners.

But what of the construction of a competition pool? After all, this is what is truly needed by the swim teams for the purpose of holding and hosting swim meet competitions — not lazy rivers or water slides. I think Councilman Mike Maciel said it best when he stated that we all need to come to the realization that the type of aquatics facility originally envisioned as part of the proposed Ellis development is not feasible given the current economic condition, both now and in the foreseeable future.

Does this mean that an aquatics facility cannot be constructed? I believe such a facility can be constructed.

During the presentation, it was made clear by Zane Johnston that about $2.175 million in Plan C funds can only be used for the construction of a new pool. This means that there is, guaranteed, the sum of $2.175 million the city can use to construct a new 52-meter competition pool, whether it is at the Holly Sugar Sports Park or Dr. Powers Park (both of which are city-owned lands).

The cost of a 52-meter competition pool, according to Mr. Johnston, would be $9.2 million. That means we would need to come up with an additional $7 million. I think that to get us there, the following questions need to be asked and answered:

1. Would Surland, developer of Ellis, contribute the $7 million needed as part of its proposed Ellis development? If the answer to this question by Les Serpa is “yes,” then we would need to know when that money would be made available — i.e. would it be a year from now, two years from now, five years from now? If Surland cannot contribute the $7 million, then how much would it contribute and when?

2. Having gotten solid, honest and nonevasive answers to the first set of questions, i.e. a hard dollar amount and a firm date of when the money would be contributed by Surland, the next question to be answered is that if there is a shortfall between the money available and the $9.2 million it would cost to construct a new 52-meter pool, how would that shortfall be bridged? At this point, the city and swim team advocates would need to come up with ways to raise that money. For example, would the private sector be asked to participate through contributions, as was done in the case of the renovation of the Grand Theatre? And/or could we pursue obtaining federal and/or state grants that could be used for the purpose of constructing a sports facility such as a 52-meter competition pool?

3. The third and final question that would need to be answered is, how much would it cost the general fund on an annual, recurring basis to operate a newly constructed 52-meter competition pool? Given current economic times, this is something that needs to be studied closely, with honesty and scrutiny. During the course of the April 3, meeting, one of the swim team advocates stated that they could assist in the operation of a newly constructed swim facility. What would the swim team advocates be willing to contribute toward the operation of this facility in order to minimize its impact to the city’s general fund? Could the operation of this new pool be structured in such a way so as to minimize its operating costs to the city, so as to spare it from being closed after it had been constructed?

I firmly believe that if all the stakeholders — Surland development, the city, the swim center advocates and the people of this city — are willing to ask and come up with honest, nonevasive answers to these questions that are grounded in fact and solid finances, we can achieve the goal of having a first-class competition swim pool constructed a lot sooner than everyone expects. And by engaging in this deliberative and collaborative process, it would be a facility that we would all truly be proud to call our own.

• Dave Helm is a Tracy resident.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 24, 2012
Ok, there is no such thing as a stupid question, but when I saw this list I thought to myself. Self. What a stupid question.

Let me reply to the first question.

I honestly recall a city meeting where Les was asked that very same question. This was already answered in a public meeting. Why would you ask a question that was already answered and pretend like you are the authority on all things stupid?

"1. Would Surland, developer of Ellis, contribute the $7 million needed as part of its proposed Ellis development? If the answer to this question by Les Serpa is “yes,” then we would need to know when that money would be made available — i.e. would it be a year from now, two years from now, five years from now?"

"Would it be five years from now?" Come on, that reminds me of my teenager playing stupid when asked if they borrowed the car and went to their friends house or somewhere else. Hello! Odometer people!

The rest of the questions were as much nonsense as the first one. There is a park near my house and I will admit that I take my children there to play. Yes, I mooch off the city who provides me with parks and swimming pools. So does the park generate revenue? Of course not.
April 24, 2012
If your idea of a business venture were implemented THEN the pools would surely be for rich only, Sneaky. I like the idea of getting something from the developers. In a world where most drownings occur at the homes of poor minorities, I am glad to hear of the prospects of a community swim center. It has community value, in spite of the cogs in the wheel who are down there protesting.

Besides, who ever heard of a park that made money? We pay our fair share of taxes and should expect some of these services. Can you imagine if Livermore citizens had the gall to tell Ikea obstructionists to take a hike. Amazon had to go to Patterson and Raleys delayed their construction. Obstructionism sucks!
April 20, 2012
Hasnt this issue worn itself out? If the city/developers/whomever cannot get their crap together after what seems like 10 years of this discussion it is high time they give up on the ill conceived aquatic center. How much time, money and effort has been wasted to produce a whole lot of nothing? I have a wild idea. If the public really wants a swimming pool and it is a viable business venture then I propose that some entrepreneurial sort will build it. The fact that nobody is running forward to do so tells us something: its a money loser. It would do nothing but suck money from all residents pockets, while only a few rich kids who are so spoiled that a mere 25 meter pool wont do for them, will actually use it.

"...we can achieve the goal of having a first-class competition swim pool constructed..."

hmph. Not my goal.
April 11, 2012
Dear FunSucker,

Stop yelling at people and let them swim.
April 10, 2012
heres the questions that need to be asked, if a new aquatics center is to be built.

-the city already pays for the non use operation of the joe wilson pool at dr powers, its condition is so bad it cannot be reopened without serious repairs being made from under the pool. Is that the filter pump I hear running but yet nobody has been allowed to use the pool in years?

-didnt the city go into an agreement with tracy unifed school district to copay for the pinkie philips pool located at west high? yes they did. They also asked last summer for an extension on paying their share because they dont have the funds. Yes they did

-the city took the aquatics program they ran into the red what will prevent that from happening with a new aquatics center?

If the city cannot currently pay to cover contracts they are already involved in for aquatics what busniess do they have getting into another contract for a bigger aquatic center?

April 11, 2012
Pools can be run to turn a profit. They just need to have the right people running them and a mutually beneficial relationship between the recreation department and the school district. Hmm the city of Tracy has none of that so until they do....no pool people.
April 07, 2012
How about some question to be prepended to Mr. Helms' list:

1. How has Tracy managed to survive up to now without this pool?

2. Can Tracy continue to survive without this pool?

3. Tracy has run a deficit over the past several years and is currently $1.4 million in the hole for this year. Is it wise to spend money on a project that has severe general fund impact as soon as it is completed?

4. According to Mayor Ives, "all future developments in town will be required to pay into the Aquatics Center fund". This is money that will then be unavailable to other needed activities, like police and fire, or paying for other critical city services. Is it right or wise to mortgage the city's (ALL of us) future to pay for a luxury that is used only by a few?
April 07, 2012
I think Mr. Helm is right. It's time for Surland (Les Serpa) to put his money on the table regarding the aquatics center. Once that happens the citizens will then have a clear picture of what it will take to finally get this project moving.
April 06, 2012
Also in a 52 meter pool you will have to insert a bulkhead. The bulkhead will stay at one end to make for a 50 meter competition space.
April 06, 2012
Now we need someone who knows pools. You do not build a 25 meter pool!!!! Build a 25 yard pool or a 50 meter x 25 yard pool.

There are two seasons in year round swimming. The short course and long course seasons. Short course is 25 yards and long course is 50 meters. In high school and college it is 25 yards.

Please tell them a 25 meter pool will not be the correct size!!!!!!
April 06, 2012
The amount is already set forth in the Development agreement as $10,000,000 and a site on the Ellis project.

The Surland Co nor the city can changed the conditions of the DA.

In addition all future developments in town will be required to pay into the Aquatics Center fund according to Mayor Ives.

This funding source was conjured up by then council members Tucker and Tolbert to facilitate the $28,000,000 facility.

We are lucky to still have the Mayor carry out finance plan.
April 07, 2012

You are dreaming if you think that Les will pony up the $10 million. That is bye-bye. Ives and Serpa both know that. The rumor is that Surland will probably pony up only a coupleillion- not ten. But hey, why take my word for it- let's just ask Les. So, how much will it be Les? Be honest with swim folk that you've been using to push your project all these years and the citizens of this town.
April 06, 2012
Well said Mr. Helm ... well said. Les, how much will you be putting up for a new 52 meter pool and when?
April 12, 2012
The sooner the better, costs only go up with time. I'm not saying rush into it, I'm saying feet dragging and political wrangling will only drive up costs. Build the pool, and maximize its use.

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at tpnews@tracypress.com.