Pool vote: A letter to the City Council

What a shock to read about Monday night’s City Council meeting! I am outraged by the motion made by El Jahncke and the subsequent votes cast by Council members Steve Litzow, Sven Goldmanis, Jahncke and Jim Pearman to reduce support funds for the Mary Wayte Pool. I appreciate the wise words of opposition by Dan Grausz and the wonderful editorial that appeared in the Mercer Island Reporter on Nov. 14, “Pool Vote Unwise.”

Northwest Center stepped up to take over the pool when no one else did. They are a non-profit organization, not a fledgling corporation that is going to be making bigger profits each year. They will struggle, as all non-profits do, to make ends meet. They have run the pool admirably, but have not had the funds for the maintenance and upkeep that it needs. These are not one-shot capital campaign needs but everyday on-going needs. There is also a need for major improvements noted in NW Center’s capital campaign literature.

As David Wunderlin, CEO of Northwest Center said, the understanding was that NW Center would need assistance from the community to continue its operation. We pledged at least five years of support to the tune of $100,000 each year that was to be voted upon each year.

I am sorry to see that Council members have such short memories. They have apparently forgotten the numerous Town Hall Meetings held in the summer and fall of 2002 with a hue and cry from swimmers and supporters to keep the pool open, when it was threatened to be “mothballed.” I am sure that the community has not changed that much in five years. In fact, I would guess there would be more of an outcry now because of the increased use of the pool.

There is rarely a week in which the Mercer Island Reporter does not have pictures and articles about the swim team and other users of the pool.

My question is what motivated El Jahncke to make this motion? Surely, Mercer Island’s budget is not in jeopardy. Why was NW Center unable to attend? Were they not given enough advance notice? Why was the public not notified of the pending motion and vote? Maybe you didn’t want swimmers in bathing suits and caps to appear at the Council meeting as they did in 2002!

A $20,000 cut will have a great impact on the pool. Decreasing subsidies in the coming years could be disastrous. NW Center has already had to raise rates. It costs a senior citizen $3.25 for individual swims and $3.75 for youths. Annual pass fees are available at $235 for seniors and $260 for youths. This can be a hardship for some Mercer Islanders and an increase might make swimming impossible for them.

The City of Mercer Island has a responsibility to its citizens to continue adequate financial support for this much-used community facility. We should not expect a non-profit organization to subsidize Mercer Island’s community pool.

I think you need to have another hearing with input from all. And another vote!

Peggy Pomeroy is a swimmer and Mercer Island resident.

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