Why CARD isn’t going to fix Shapiro Pool

11 Nov

Two weeks ago CARD had a “public meeting” to start discussion on their proposed aquatic center. They didn’t notice the meeting ahead, so only about 25 people showed up. They were given a short presentation by a couple of consultants and then asked to break into groups and write down their own wants for such a project. They were encouraged to dream big – water slides, 50 foot competitive pool, therapy pool – you name it!

I had attended the committee meeting earlier that day, and had a different kind of report from the consultants. At the committee meeting they made it clear the public would have to agree to a tax, not only to build this thing, but to maintain it in perpetuity. The consultants both made it clear this facility would be used by a very small portion of the public but would have to be supported by every home owner, renter, business owner and citizen of Butte County.

Consultant Lauren Livingston made it clear – if you  try to charge “users” based on the true cost of this thing, they couldn’t pay. But make it too cheap, and everybody would want to use it, and then it would be too small. “These things are not the cash cow people believe they are…” she said.

David Little, who did not attend the committee meeting, wrote an editorial blaming the consultants for pitching this big dream. I wasn’t at the public meeting, I don’t know what went on there. But at the committee meeting, both of those consultants told the committee they needed to plan something the community would use and could afford. But, committee members, especially Haley Cope and Jackie Santos, kept demanding all the bells and whistles. Cope was really insulting, saying in so many words the community doesn’t know anything and shouldn’t be taken very seriously in the decision making process.  She reminded us she was an Olympic medalist, but I don’t know what kind of grasp she has on the constitution.

Cope kept saying this thing would drag in people for “therapy”. The consultant told them no, there are already therapy pools in town, including a new pool at Enloe. And, he added, insurance companies won’t pay for therapy unless it’s done in a “dedicated therapy pool,” meaning they’d have to build a separate facility up to medical code.

Tom Lando, champing at the bit, declared such a facility would bring in hundreds and hundreds of people from our surrounding areas.  Redding has a pool. Durham has a pool. Willows has a pool. Exactly who does he think is going to drive to Chico to pay a membership at our aquatic center?

The entire time, the consultants kept shooting them down, telling them these facilities never pay for themselves, and they’d have to get some sort of commitment out of the taxpayers before they made any real plans. Certain committee members just wouldn’t understand – they want to bait the public with flashy drawings, without telling them about the cost. They kept demanding that the consultant come up with some sort of plans to show the public, and he kept telling them that’s not what he was hired for.  He was hired to find out what kind of center the public is willing to pay for, and like Little also noted – that’s not coming into the public conversation.

So, reading Little’s editorial, I had to write the following letter:

I attended an Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meeting held before the public meeting October 28 to hear their consultant’s suggestions. 

 

Dennis Berkshire of Aquatic Design Group and Lauren Livingston of The Sports Management Group made it clear that CARD will need to put a tax measure on the ballot to fund the kind of project AFAC is encouraging. “You can find a bazillion partners who want to use it,” said Livingston, “but none of them bring anything of value.”  Berkshire added we could expect, at best,  “40 – 45 percent annual operating cost recovery” from user fees, the rest would have to be “subsidized” by the taxpayers.  

The cheapest plan I have seen presented so far is $10 million, and the rainbow visions go as high as $28 million.  

 

Former CARD director and board member Ed Seagle reminded the committee that in 2012 they ran a survey which indicated the public is not willing to be taxed for this project. Since 2012 CARD has spent almost $100,000 on out-of-town consultants, trying to convince the public to pay for an aquatic center which might be used by a projected 15 percent of our population. 

 

Meanwhile, a local consultant recently reported we can remodel Shapiro Pool for about $550,000. 

Yes, we could have Shapiro better than it was before, for less than $600,000. But we have to remind ourselves what this is really about – it’s about the pension liability CARD has piled up – over $1.7 million –  and how they will pay it.

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3 Responses to “Why CARD isn’t going to fix Shapiro Pool”

  1. bob November 11, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    They were encouraged to dream big – water slides, 50 foot competitive pool, therapy pool – you name it!

    OK, how about they fill the pools with champagne instead of water…or at least do that for the therapy pool…then you can drink your therapy right out of the pool!

  2. bob November 11, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    Did they publish your letter? If so how much did they cut out or change?

    • Juanita Sumner November 12, 2015 at 6:24 am #

      I just sent it the day before yesterday, I usually give him a week before I resend. I always expect him to challenge me when I use quotation marks – I keep my notes now. I have a tape recorder now but I’m not sure it’s worth taping all that shit and then having to dig through to find something, but I will if I have to.

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