[Guest Op/Ed Post by Mark Joselyn, Si View Metropolitan Park District Commissioner, 2003 – present, North Bend City Council since 2022. Susan Kelly, Si View Metropolitan Park District Commissioner 2003-2011, 2016-present and Linda Grez, Si View Metropolitan Park District Commissioner, 2008 – 2019 –Views expressed are those of the authors, not the Living Snoqualmie website. You may submit letters to the editor or opinion posts to firstname.lastname@example.org]
Si View Pool opened in 1938 and is on ‘borrowed time.’ It is stapled together, and every time an outdated mechanical system like the boiler or a circulation pump breaks, costly repairs and custom-made parts are needed.
There is real uncertainty about next year when the drains need to be brought up to federal code again. Changing rooms and showers are tiny and cramped. It’s past the end of its functional or sustainable life as operating costs continue to go up. Si View’s Operations Manager and crew continue to do an admirable job keeping it going, but it’s increasingly difficult to defend continued investment.
Si View Park District has 17,000 people within its boundary and 22,000 additional users in its service area who would pay higher out-of-district rates. While beloved, the existing pool is too small to meet demand and too old to keep running. These are the primary drivers for Proposition 1 appearing on the November 7th ballot. The ballot measure asks voters to approve up to $21.3 million in capital bonds for the construction of a new pool at Si View Park as a replacement. It requires a supermajority of 60% to pass. A more costly bond measure in 2022 garnered strong majority support of 58%, but 60% is needed.
The Park District proposal covers 25% of the cost with grants to finance the proposed pool. These include a competitive $4 million grant from King County that will expire if unused. Five percent of the cost is in existing accounts. The proposed capital bond would provide the remaining 70% of the funding for a modern, efficient facility to meet the needs of our growing community better. The existing pool space will be converted to other uses based on community input, but it will not be a pool. Pools do not pay for themselves, even when new.
The proposed pool at Si View Park is designed to be as financially self-sustaining as possible. Multiple programs can take place at the same time. This is factored into the business model and the number of lifeguards required. These considerations help explain why the proposed pool is sized and designed the way it is and reflect community input.
Some key points to keep in mind about a new pool at Si View Park:
- The current pool is past end-of-life in terms of its structural integrity and mechanical systems. It is increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain and may not be able to meet the evolving federal code.
- The current pool is too small to meet the existing demand for swimming lessons and aquatics in our growing community. Through August of this year, 2,456 people have been waitlisted.
- The new pool will have more than triple the useable water area of the old pool, with a flexible design that provides wet zones for various activities to operate independently from one another, expanding bather capacity to from 60 swimmers to 260 and maximizing use of 4,600 sf of wet space.
- The $21.3 million requested in voter-approved funding is $3 million (over 12 %) less than what was requested 19 months ago, even though a fourth lane has been added and inflation has been high. The total cost of $30.3 million is based on up-to-date estimates from professional consultants.
- The Park District has an exceptional, nationally recognized aquatic staff. Without a pool, there would be no need for staff. Part of the pool’s success is the hiring and development of high school students into highly trained lifeguards. Staffing levels are only now recovering from the disruption caused by Covid.
- Swim teams could practice in the four 25-yard swim lanes at the same time as other activities like swim lessons and water aerobics classes.
- Some people think an Olympic-sized swimming pool should be built first; however, a recreational pool does a better job of paying for itself, covering operating expenses and serving more people. A competitive pool is more expensive to run, generates less programming revenue and serves fewer people. The proposed pool will be built so it can accommodate the addition of a competitive pool in the future.
- There is no land acquisition cost. The proposed site is adjacent to Si View Park, facilitating operations and maintenance. The wild greenness that is there today is to be cherished; however, there is a real fear of elk in Si View Park among patrons and children. Most of the site will remain open space. Si View has a history of improving, caring for and maintaining the properties under its care. They have been and will be a good neighbor.
- A pool rebuilt on the site of the existing pool would not address the existing need. Expansion would take limited open space, including ballfields and playgrounds, while construction occurred at the same site. Passing a capital bond would also be required. As a public entity, Si View MPD is subject to annual audits, accounting for every penny it handles. It is required to pay prevailing wage and open its books to the public. There is no tithe to national or international organizations. Park District audits are consistently clean, and the MPD retains a very strong bond rating.
- The proposed ballot measures permits the District borrow up to $21.3 million over six years. It is a fixed amount that cannot go up. The cost apportioned to each property is determined by the King County Assessor, who looks at what is actually borrowed and divides it by the valuation of the entire Park District. If the full $21.3 million were borrowed, the estimated cost for a $800,000 home would be $10.67 per month or $128.04 per year.
It takes years to bring forward a proposal for funding and building public facilities. When our current pool fails, it will take years to fashion a replacement. Large capital projects take vision, planning, RFQ’s, RFP’s, design, outreach, and investment of finite staff resources. Si View has diligently planned a facility to meet community needs, with updated estimates and budgets, in efforts to make it work and to earn your support. Every dollar raised for this project will be spent on this project in this community. When it opens, the same will be true of programming revenue.
Finally, swim lessons save lives, and water exercise is beneficial for all ages. The New York Times recently wrote how drowning is the second leading cause of death among young people. We live between three rivers. Our children and adults need this new pool for safety and for, health and wellbeing. Please consider passing on a legacy, a legacy of swim lessons, of families, of therapy and wellness, for those here now and those to come after. This is an opportunity to assure there continues to be a pool for our children and neighbors to learn to swim, for residents to have a warm refuge during the dark, rainy months, and to make even better the quality of life in the Upper Snoqualmie Valley. It will be a place where memories are made to be savored for generations to come.