Council restores Mary Wayte pool funding

J. Jacob Edel
Mercer Island Reporter

Three months after the City Council cut its annual contribution toward the Mary Wayte Pool by $20,000, new Councilmembers helped reverse that decision last Monday.

The city will now give a total of $100,000 toward the operational costs of the Island’s only public pool, as it has since the non-profit NW Center took control of the facility from the county in 2003.

Last November, when the Council had to approve the annual expenditure, a motion made by Councilmember El Jahncke to reduce the city’s contribution in 2008 by $20,000 was approved 4-3. Councilmembers Dan Grausz, Mike Grady and former mayor Bryan Cairns voted against the motion. However, outgoing Councilmember Sven Goldmanis voted for the reduction. Councilmember Steve Litzow also voted for the reduction in November, as did Mayor Jim Pearman.

Pool employees and users were shocked by news about the reduction in funding.

In the city’s biennial budget, the Council had appropriated $100,000 for the pool. However, city documents show that the original agreement between the city and the NW Center promised the $100,000 subsidy through 2007.

Ty Taylor, the NW Center director, said the organization estimated user fees would increase by nearly a dollar to make up for the lack of funding if the Council did not reverse its decision. He also predicted a reduction in use by about 10 percent, based on the fee increase, which would reverse the trend since NW Center took over pool.

“Use of the pool has steadily gone up in the last two years,” said Taylor. “We’ve had increases in the percentage of users with new user groups coming to the pool and adding new programs.”

Councilmember Jahncke was the only Councilmember who voted against restoring the funding.

“I initially proposed the reduction because I feel this is a classic example of a government program intended to be temporary to assist in a transition that becomes a permanent one,” Jahncke said.

In support of restoring the funding, Councilmember Grady said he wanted the city to help keep the pool running.

“A pool of this nature is a public amenity,” Grady said. “We support other services that don’t serve citizens in ways the pool does. Those are the people I am interested in helping.”

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