The failure of a key pipe at Mary Wayte Pool on the eve of a 17-team high school district swim meet is just one more incident in a series of wake-up calls regarding the sorry state of the Island’s only public pool. The broken pipe shut down the pool for two days. School district maintenance people scrambled to fix the pipe in time for the meet.
Superintendent Gary Plano told the Reporter later that this sort of event was inevitable.
“This is what we have been warning people about,” he said of the shutdown. “We came within a hairsbreadth of a real catastrophe.”
And when that catastrophe arrives, just who will step up? Within the already intertwined spheres of the city and the school district, the pool lies in a no-man’s land. No one really owns the pool and no one wants to own the pool. Who can blame them? The pool is a liability and a financial sinkhole.
The city and the school district share some sort of responsibility for it. The city grants money each year; the school district keeps it stitched together.
The survey done by the school district regarding the recent bond initiative to rebuild schools asked voters if they would support a bond that would include money needed to fix the pool and upgrade the stadium at the same time. Those surveyed said no. Can the school district risk another bond failure? Probably not. They are in the business of education. Their focus is elsewhere. City officials are also not convinced that there are enough Islanders who care enough about the pool to carry it through a successful vote.
Not helping is the location of the pool in the block around the high school that is already oversubscribed.
So what we are facing is an Island surrounded by water, but without a public facility to teach people how to swim? A pool for our student athletes to train in, for our seniors who need therapy? For Islanders who keep in shape? The city looked into sharing with the private pools, but nothing has come of it.
So what is likely is that we will soon have another abandoned public building — an eyesore, just like the East Seattle School.