Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics, a new group seeking to raise funds and partner with the city to create new aquatics facilities, is taking up the cause to save Warwick Pool from closure along with several citizens associations.
City Manager Rashad Young is proposing to close Warwick Pool, one of two large outdoor pools in Alexandria, as part of his fiscal year 2014 city budget plan. The move would save the city $92,000—the cost to staff and operate the pool this spring and summer—in general operating funds for FY14.
Young’s overall budget proposal includes $13.8 million in expenditure reductions across the city, which is experiencing a sixth straight year of economic challenges, he said.
Located at 3301 Landover St., Young said the popular pool needs more than $6,000 in repairs just to reopen this year. The facility also requires more than $500,000 in deferred maintenance “to bring the pool up to standards” in the next five years if the pool remains open, he said.
Those maintenance costs include $221,000 in pool surface coating and deck repair, $169,000 in heath and safety expenditures, including making the site ADA compliant, and $141,000 in repairs to the pool house.
Members of Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics say Warwick Pool needs to stay open for at least another year to allow time for private sector action and to not strain other aquatics facilities in the city.
“Give us a chance and we will show you how a public-private partnership can and should work,” Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics member Bill Rivers said Monday at a budget hearing at City Hall. Rivers was a leader in fundraising efforts to open the Kelley Cares Miracle Field at the Lee Center in November.
The group believes it can raise between $3 million and $5 million for aquatics facilities. It also wants to see a budget commitment from the city for aquatics. Just $520,000 over the next 10 years is slotted for aquatics in the city recreation department’s capital improvements budget, Rivers said.
The group is pursuing the creation of a 50-meter competition pool at Chinquapin Recreation Center, something the city believes will cost roughly $5 million. Such a pool would create additional revenue through user fees and hosting local, regional and perhaps statewide swim meets.
Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics would also like to see a therapeutic pool facility built at the Lee Center.
“Aquatics will cease to exist as a public sponsored activity for Alexandrians” if the city doesn’t invest in new aquatics facilities, Rivers said.
A $50 million strategic plan for the city’s aquatics facilities was revealed last year. In the plan, consultants recommended a five-pool system in the city, while converting Warwick Pool and other aging facilities into spraygrounds. Those projects remain unfunded.
Rivers suggested that to close Warwick Pool at the same time Chinquapin is scheduled to close for five months for repairs would put inordinate strain on Old Town Pool, the city’s other large outdoor facility. The city does plan to extend hours at Old Town Pool and Memorial Pool at Charles Houston Recreation Center this summer.
“Closing Warwick would exempt many from using a pool this summer,” said Glenn Christianson, president of the Warwick Village Citizens Association, at Monday’s budget hearing. “Old Town Pool will be overrun. With Warwick closed, many people just won’t go to a pool. Kids won’t learn how to swim and we’ll lose the health and wellness and community benefits of the pool.”
Christianson said the WVCA uses the pool house for its meetings and other events. Its members often offer volunteer time to maintain the pool and its facilities.
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Last year, the city erected a new fence at Warwick Pool and invested in a new pool cover and lap-lane dividers.
“We felt a bit of surprise to have done this and then suggest closing it a year later,” said WVCA Vice President Mark Malseed, who spoke to the Del Ray Citizens Association on Monday night. “We think it’s basically the city not supporting aquatics. We’d be losing a great asset.”
Malseed said the WVCA would support raising entry fees at the pool to keep it open. The fees have not been raised since 2006.
The Del Ray Citizens Association voted Monday night to send a letter to city officials urging that the pool stay open for at least this summer.
City Council will host a multitude of work sessions to review the proposed budget before scheduled adoption on May 6. Fiscal Year 2014 for the city begins June 1.
Alexandria has a full calendar of work sessions and hearings on its website.