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Mary Wayte Pool could close Dec. 31

As of Dec. 31 of this year, Northwest Center (NWC) will no longer be the operator of Mary Wayte Pool.

Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano received an e-mail from NWC this past week explaining that they would be pulling out of their agreement with the district and King County at year’s end.

It is simple; NWC was losing $50,000 a year operating the Mary Wayte facility. It will be the last pool operated by the nonprofit that had run a handful of other county pools until recently.

If no one is found to take over the operation of the pool, it will be mothballed and shut down.

Both the city and the school district had anticipated the move — just not quite so soon. The topic of the pool had already been scheduled to be discussed during the joint School Board, City Council meeting on Monday night.

In the near term, the city and School Board are working to find another pool operator for the next one to three years on the condition that the cost of any needed repairs or other circumstances are fully explored before going ahead.

Nearly 40 years ago, King County voters passed a bond measure known as Forward Thrust, which paid for pools like Mary Wayte Pool that was built in 1972. NWC operates the pool through a lease with the school district, which owns the land. King County remains the owner of the building until it is no longer used.

The School Board and the City Council have already set up an ad hoc committee to look into their options, and Manny Ocampo, consulting for the city, did a survey of the use and status of all pools on the Island. Both the city and the School Board are eager to work with the private clubs on the Island to see if it would be feasible to share facilities.

But for now, the city and the school district are framing how to approach keeping the pool open for the short run. Yet they cannot help but look ahead to the challenges of gauging what a new pool might look like or cost.

Even if the community wants a pool, City Manager Rich Conrad said, neither the school nor the city are in the business of running a pool. “Are we the right bodies to take this on?” he asked.

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