It made for spectacular headlines in August when the Vanguard first reported that Civic Pool had a substantial leak at over 7500 gallons a day. Moreover, it came out that the city had been aware of the leak for some time and they had argued that it was not just a simple fix.
However, this week, the city staff report argues that the costs for the repair “will not exceed $50,000” and that “sufficient funds are budgeted in the pool equipment replacement fund for FY14/15.”
Staff writes, “Civic Center Pool is in need of repairs to minimize the loss of water from the pool. The City has completed testing to determine the scope of the necessary repairs and plans to proceed with fixing the leaks identified in the inspection reports. The repair work will be completed during the pool’s annual maintenance period, which is currently set for the last two weeks of November. This will enable the City to relocate existing users to other pool locations without disruption.
“Once the repairs are made, staff will then reassess the pool water levels to determine if the leaks to the pool have been mitigated,” staff continues. Staff does warn: “There is a possibility that the proposed maintenance program will not fully solve the leak problem. If that is the case staff will advise the Council and return with alternatives.”
The discovery of the pool leak came at a time when there was a debate brewing on the timing, scope and form of a potential parcel tax to deal with city infrastructure issues.
There had been a sentiment led by Councilmember Brett Lee that pools represented a “nice to have” commodity, rather than a necessity. However, the pool leak discussion had the potential to change that, particularly if repair costs were prohibitive.
Even absent the pool leak discussion, there will be public pressure to address the pools along with the needed road work. Mayor Dan Wolk is one of the leading proponents of such a scheme.
“I do believe that the funding of a pool is critical,” Dan Wolk argued back in June. “I think it’s clear that, just as with our roads, the longer we wait on that, the greater our cost becomes in terms of our band aid measures that we’ll have to put on the pools.
“It’s clear that we’re going to have to invest $7 million on these to refurbish civic and community (pool),” he added. “There’s a strong argument to make… that we really need to re-invest in our parks facilities and specifically our community pool. I think that’s really critical to the heart of this community as much as anything. I think this is a community that is willing to support that – even at a two-thirds level.”
Others, like Councilmember Brett Lee, see it differently, “It’s nice to split the need to have versus nice to have. Road and sidewalk – need to have. Swimming pool upgraded facility – that’s a nice to have.”
Dan Wolk would strongly differ.
“Obviously the roads and bike (paths) and sidewalks are need to have items,” the Mayor Pro Tem stated. “I guess I just don’t see our pools as sort of these niceties that we have in our community. I see them as critical infrastructure. I’m just trying to imagine a community that lacks a civic pool and a community pool.”
This was argument made by Ken Petruzzelli of the Davis Aquatic Masters in a guest Vanguard piece in August. He wrote, “Framing discussion of Davis pools in terms of necessities versus luxuries creates a false dichotomy. Amenities such as pools are central to creating and maintaining community. Amenities make a city an attractive and enjoyable place to live. Given that people typically want to live where they work, civic amenities have never played a greater role in attracting businesses to a city and attracting talent to businesses.”
As Mr. Petruzzelli writes, “In the coming months, as Davis again discusses how to invest money in its civic infrastructure, we hope the public will consider how pools and other amenities enrich our community.”
That has to be part of our discussion, because right now a $50 parcel tax would probably pass and a $100 or $150 parcel tax would likely fail. Right now, the polling shows a $100 parcel tax fails to get to two-thirds, clocking in with 58% support, the same of the sales tax measure, while a $150 parcel tax fails to even get a majority.
The B-modified street, sidewalk and bike path plan calls for us to ramp up spending to the point where we have an average PCI of about 63. In schoolyard terms, that means Davis’ roads would rate a D.
In the short term, Davis has sufficient money through the general fund to put about $4.7 million into road repairs, but that is not ongoing money. We need a funding mechanism.
Now that Davis is set to hire a city manager, the city has to sit down and plan out just what and how it plans to handle Davis’ massive infrastructure needs. Because of polling considerations, I would still argue we need to do this sooner rather than later, so that we can lay out our critical needs to the public.
The relatively low cost for repairs of the pool may take it off the table once again. But that is a more complex assessment than one might originally think.
From a policy standpoint, it is difficult, amid concerns with crumbling parks infrastructure and still unassessed building infrastructure, to put money into pools.
The idea that a $10 million capital project is going to pay for itself in any short-term horizon defies logic. The reason the city closed the Community Pool was not just the repair needs but the inability to pay for basic maintenance costs.
There are political calculations here, as well. The city recognizes it needs to perform a heavy lift to get the parcel tax from the 58% approval level of the Measure O sales tax in June to the two-thirds threshold.
From Dan Wolk’s thinking, including the pool brings in a new base of support for the parcel tax. You have the 500 people in the aquatics community – the parents and other participants in recreational swimming. With all of that you not only have a voting base of support but a group of people with a vested interest in getting out the vote.
But there is a strong downside to that analysis. The presence of the pool in the list of projects on a parcel tax will undermine the city’s strongest argument that this is an emergency measure to deal with the critical needs of roads.
Critics will see the inclusion of pools as a luxury rather than a necessity, especially absent the immediate Civic Pool crisis.
In the end, however, this all comes down to a choice by the electorate – we can save money by cutting amenities and shore up the budget through taxes. At some point, though, the public must decide what it wants this community to look like.
—David M. Greenwald reporting