Council approves pool agreement
SNOHOMISH - After major changes were made to the contract, the City Council last week approved an agreement with the Snohomish School District to pay the water and sewer bill for the district’s planned aquatic center.
The estimated cost for the city has been cut down from about $6 million to about $3 million over the 30-year life of the contract, which is the anticipated life of the facility.
City residents also will get a 20 percent discount on monthly or yearly facility passes.
The school district could begin construction on the estimated $22-$25 million facility this summer and open by fall 2013. The project is currently in the detailed design phase and will be built at the district’s Maple Avenue Campus on the corner of Maple and Glen avenues.
To cut down on the city’s cost, the agreement requires the district to use two water meters to measure the pool’s water usage. The pool water also will be discharged into the storm water system instead of the sewer system, bypassing the need to be treated at the sewage treatment plant, public works director Tim Heydon said.
The double metering will cut down on connection fee costs and potentially at times the minimum monthly charge, Heydon said.
The cost in year one was reduced from $92,200 to $52,200 and the cost in year 30 was reduced from $302,200 to about $160,000, according to city estimates.
The city offered to pay the pool’s utility bill after the district began exploring options to save money when an analysis showed the facility wouldn’t take in as much as needed to operate the facility. One option the district briefly considered was building the pool in the county, which has lower utility costs.
The city responded with a promise to pay the utility bill if the pool were to stay in Snohomish because it is expected to be an economic driver for the city as well as a much needed recreational resource.
Public comments at last week’s meeting were more positive about the city paying the utility bill than at previous meetings.
The new aquatic center would replace the district’s Hal Moe Pool, which was closed due to unsafe structural deficiencies. (The city paid the utility bill for Hal Moe.)
Several high school swim team members from Snohomish and Glacier Peak high schools spoke out in favor of the agreement, saying swim team membership is dwindling as athletes and their parents have to endure long drives and other hassles to attend practice and meets.
Snohomish resident Robert Knight noted that older people need a pool, too.
“I can hardly wait for my old body to feel the joy of being able to swim again,” Knight said.
Knight also said he was involved in efforts to educate the public about the 2008 school district bond that was passed partially because the aquatic center was one of the projects the bond was supposed to pay for.
He said he heard from a lot of people that if the aquatic center was not a part of that bond, they would not have voted for it.
Property owner Morgan Davis said the agreement should be cut down to five years instead of 30 to see how it works out first.
Davis said that even though the cost was cut in half, the agreement was still a bad deal for the city.
Economic development manager Debbie Emge presented an updated report on the pool’s projected economic impact.
She estimated the aquatic center would have an annual impact of about $3.5 million.
The aquatic center is anticipated to be the premier facility for the region, she said, and will be used by the U.S. Swimming national team as well as high schools and other local users.
The city still hasn’t explored how it will fund the expense, which will come out of the general fund. The council voted 6-1 to approve the agreement. Councilman Dean Randall voted no.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published Feb. 15, 2012