City extends Mary Wayte contract

The City Council agreed on Feb. 17 to invest $200,000 into the upkeep of Mary Wayte Pool over the next two years. The move is part of a long-running agreement between the city and the Northwest Center, which runs the pool.

During last week’s meeting, Councilmembers authorized City Manager Rich Conrad to enter into the Mary Wayte agreement’s second amendment, thereby giving the Northwest Center, a nonprofit that supports the disabled, $100,000 for 2009 operations and another $100,000 for 2010. This was done by extending the agreement through Dec. 31, 2010.

Before granting the extension, however, the Council listened to Chris Sumi, director of pools at the Northwest Center, present his 2008 financial report. Although Sumi reported that revenue dropped by 15 percent in 2008 and attendance was down, he assured the Council that numbers would increase in 2009.

“We didn’t have a good year in ’08. We had some staff transitions and didn’t do the best job of reaching out and meeting the demand of customers,” he said. “But we have a high-energy manager in place now. I’m back as well. I think we’ve solved our operation problems. We hit target in January, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t hit target for ’09.”

Taking Sumi at his word, the Council approved the agreement’s second amendment.

A number of renovations will also be made to the Mary Wayte Pool this year, pulling from the $65,000 in capital improvement funds. In August, a new pool liner with drain covers will be installed, as required by 2009 state regulations. Approximately $16,000 will also go into improving the pool’s heating and ventilation system, and Sumi also plans to remodel the locker rooms, making them “more user-friendly and private.”

“We’re working on locker room drawings right now,” Sumi said, adding that funding was coming along as well. “A donor said they would match what we make.”

The city first offered financial aid to the Northwest Center in 2003, a year after the organization saved Mary Wayte pool from being “mothballed” by King County Parks. A number of other swimming pools in the county were also set for closure.

Seeing the public need for Mary Wayte and a business opportunity for itself, the Northwest Center acquired the pool from King County with a plan to introduce new swim programs and boost community access.

Struggling with the ambitious goal at hand, the Northwest Center turned to the city for financial support in 2003. Both parties signed a four-year agreement in which the city would provide $100,000 each year “by either budget allocation, voter approved financing or private sources.”

When the agreement expired in 2007, the city agreed to extend it until Dec. 31, 2008. Last week, this extension was continued through 2010.

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