Community seems to favor a pool, but costs are a concern

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File photo of generic swimming pool courtesy of Metro Creative Connection

Many Seal Beach residents support the city’s community swimming pool project, according to an informal online survey. However, some residents expressed concerned about the estimated cost and the proposed location at the Naval Weapons Station.

However, some individuals opposed the project, which the city has been pursuing for many years now.

The survey was not scientific. The Sun posted the same question on two social media platforms.

The Sun asked “on the record and for possible publication in the print edition of the Sun, what are your thoughts on the Seal Beach Community Pool Project? As of June 12, the city put the cost of building the proposed pool at $15 million. The city and the Navy are currently in talks to build it on the grounds of the Naval Weapons Station.”

As of Tuesday morning, July 9, the Sun received 106 responses, most of which were on point. A few individuals made multiple comments. The combined answers totaled more than 4,500 words. Space does not permit quotations from all 106 of the comments. Quotations have been edited to correct minor spelling and punctuation errors.

Location

Many of the responses objected to the location on the Naval Weapons Station because of potential issues with access. However, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Public Affairs Officer Gregg Smith said that access would not be an issue. He said the proposed location is directly across from Seal Beach Police Headquarters, between the credit union and the Submarine Memorial. (The World War II National Submarine Memorial – West is located at 800 Seal Beach Blvd., just outside the entrance to the Navy facility.) Smith said the Navy would move the fence line so that the swimming pool would be outside the fence line.

Mayor Thomas Moore said essentially the same thing about about the location of the proposed swimming pool.

Council comments

District One Councilman Joe Kalmick, commenting online, said: “Just to add a bit of background, the current pool located at McGaugh school is owned by the Los Alamitos School District. It is already past its useful life. The City has spent a tremendous amount of money trying to keep it going, but it will eventually have to be closed. It is true that the latest cost estimate for a new pool and proper locker facilities, parking lot, etc., is approximately $15M.”

Kalmick said, “The City has been in negotiations with the Navy to allow the City to lease space on the Weapons Station property for a nominal fee which would allow Navy personnel access to the pool. Our last information was that a lease agreement could be signed sometime next year. That said, it will be up to the Community to decide if we want to pursue any type of financing and build a new pool. There is currently $4.7M that has been earmarked for a pool project. I would guess that the City will begin outreach efforts to allow all of our residents to have a say in how we move forward—or not.”

In response to an email from the Sun, Mayor Thomas Moore said, “The Navy has worked with the City over the past several years to allow for space for a community pool.”

Moore said: “A new parking lot would need to be built along with changing rooms.” Moore said.

Addressing costs, Moore said, “It was a bit of a shock to see that it would cost over $15M to build a pool during the budget discussions. The City has about $5M in a fund for a pool, so we would need to find a way to get the other $10M. I have heard mostly financial concerns, but will keep an open mind as this has been a long-term project for the City.”

District Three Councilman Mike Varipapa, also responding by email, said, “Most of the residents I have spoken to are looking forward to a new pool and nicer facilities. As long as it is close to the existing location and access and costs are as they are now, most people would like to see a new pool.” Varipapa’s district includes the Navy base.

Brief historical background

In September 2008, Rowley International Inc., Aquatic Design, Engineering & Consulting issued an extensive report on the McGaugh pool called a ““Feasibility Study for the Swimming Pool Renovation/ Replacement at the Seal Beach Pool Facility.”

In late March 2010, the City Council discussed repairing leaks at the McGaugh pool.

At the time, Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey told the council that the then-proposed repairs to McGaugh pool would extend the swimming pool’s lifespan by seven years.

At the time, then-District Four Councilman Gary Miller asked why the work wasn’t done in 2008.

In April 2018, a different City Council authorized the city manager to open talks with the Navy to lease property on the grounds of the Naval Weapons Station for the location of a new community swimming pool.

Concerns about costs and necessity

Among the responses to the informal online survey, Dwayne Ozenne asked: “How will it be financed?”

Elizabeth Kane said, “We do not know yet. There is currently about $4.2M in a fund set-aside for this build, but costs have greatly increased in the years since. So one idea is to float a bond to cover the cost. That will have to be voted on. In addition, the $15M is an ‘estimate.’ We have had no formal bids or plans put forth so the actual could be a bit less or could be more. Lots more work to be done.”

Shelly Bolander said, “$15 million? Wow.”

(In a June 12 email to the Sun, City Treasurer/Finance Director Victoria wrote, “$15 million is the new estimated total cost.”)

Mary Olson Baldovin said, “I would love for our town to have a great new pool to accommodate swimmers of all ages and levels. Love the idea of the splash pad and area for parties (and a little revenue). The JFTB has a pool that is used widely by the community. I am sure we can look at how they manage civilian access to the base.”

Mark Boisvert said, “We had a pool built in our sub-division. It is Olympic size with the children’s deck and complete heating system for just over $200,000.”

Johnny Ray said, “Did I read that right 15 million? How does anyone accept that as real? Are we that use(d) to getting robbed no one flashes an eyebrow?”

Polly Cross said, “There are too many variables regarding access issues at the Base, in addition to sharing it with Clubs and swimming programs. Belmont Shore is so close and they have a great temporary pool and new Olympic one (hopefully) being built. I can’t see our little city spending that kind of money on something only a fraction of residents will use and will certainly NOT vote for another bond to cover it.”

Mark Dennison, replying to Polly Cross, said, “We can’t keep up with basic maintenance, like tree trimming. How is 15 million a justifiable expense for a City that is budget-challenged?!”

Karen Narz-Ferretti said, in part, “As a local swimmer at McGaugh I’d love to see a new pool built. McGaugh is way past its prime and being located on a very busy elementary campus has it’s own issues. Parking can be iffy at best. I think a beach town should have a pool as most kids don’t learn to swim in the ocean (please notice I said “most”), but in a pool and then transfer that learning to the ocean. Even the Junior Guards program has kids test in the pool before they qualify.”

Claudia Horvath said, “I love McGaugh pool, can it be renovated and re-used instead of building a brand new pool?”

Karen Narz-Ferretti, replying to Claudia Horvath, said, “McGaugh pool is over 50 years old. That’s a long life for a pool.”

Carla and Perry Watson, said, “We support the plans for the new pool. The McGaugh site is wonderful (and) it is amazing that the pool has lasted this long. Folks who had the vision to build a pool for this town are to be credited, along with the many devoted pool managers, City Staff (and) ‘Save the Pool’ event organizers who have kept this popular pool alive. Now it is time to vision a new pool for generations to come. Swimming is a life- long sport (and) those who swim for sport, pleasure or exercise lengthen their life span. Fortunately, the Navy has agreed to donate the land (and) the City had already agreed to set aside $5 million for the pool. In coordination with the Navy (and) possibly other groups who might choose to donate, it is time to build this pool.”

Justin Lawrence Bucci, “Get the right bidders and we could get it built for $5 mill(ion).”

Marc Loopesko said, “We currently have approx(imately) $4M in the account for the building of the new pool. The question for all residents is will they support paying for the $10+M bond and interest over the next many years for the new pool? YES! we need a new pool, but at what cost (taxes) will all residents, including LW support (repay bond + interest)? Can we also get some local corporate sponsors; Boeing, TYR, Speedo, etc. to help fund the project?”

Sherry Rennard said, “I love the idea of getting corporate sponsorship to help pay for the pool.”

Jennifer Halls said, “Sounds good! If the money is already there and able to be used for this project, the(n) that would be terrific!”

Fred Schreiner said, “As one of the fraction of Seal Beach residents who has used the McGaugh pool every Saturday for the past 12 years, YES would be my vote. This pool is well used by many residents and guests of all ages in our community. Unfortunately, our local ocean is now littered with debris from the San Gabriel watershed and not very healthy for swimmers.”

Richard Glassman said, “Why can’t the city have yearly membership cost to use the pool? In other states to use the city pool you have to either be a member or pay the day you go. I think it’s more fair that way especially for people that wouldn’t be using it. I dont believe that a city that struggles financially can afford a pool when we just struugled for a 1 percent tax increase to pass. If my family wants to swim I would pay a yearly membership. I’m sure residents would also love a free fitness center. I’m all in on that idea but reality just ruined it. I dont believe you would even get 20 percent of the residents in favor of another tax increase for a city pool. I would rather pay than burden the city and charge residents with no intentions of using the pool by raising taxes. Safety and security, infrastructure are the mandatory items for a tax increase. A new pool is pleasure, not a necessity. The city does not owe its residents a new pool. Tax increases must benefit all residents. Our residents family income on average can afford to pay to use a city pool.”

Angie Hanseth said, “So does this mean the pool at McGaugh will go away? I love going there for swim lessons and free swim and most of the time ride my bike. I wouldn’t ride to a pool on the Navy Base as it’s just too far and I’m not comfortable going across SB blvd with the kids. Why not put the pool on the empty dirt lot on 1st Street across from SB Shores?”

Enea Ostrich said, “Well …I hate to say it but once upon a time we said the end of the pier would never be rebuilt but it was (maybe no building but the pier is there!).

Maybe another miracle will happen to get the Olympic pool here and the city wins out and becomes nationally famous. Hey, you never know right?

Richard Glassman said, “The pier to me is different because in my opinion it raises the value of property in Seal Beach. The pier brought many people here to live including me. It is a landmark to me. I would put it under infrastructure, which is a definate yes for a tax increase.”

Fred Schreiner said, “To clarify the cost for swimmers using McGaugh Pool today, below is the Seal Beach Recreation Department fee schedule for adult lap swimming. In addition, fees are charged for pool rental for events, child swimming lessons and fitness classes. Obviously, these user fees are not enough to pay for construction of a new pool, so alternate funding sources will be needed. We will need a mix of user fees, local and state contribution mechanisms plus community support to make this happen for Seal Beach.

“Adult fees: 16 swim sessions: $80; 34 swim sessions: $136; Unlimited annual pass: $300 (no guests).”

John Alexander said, “Sounds way over priced. Isn’t there an Olympic sized pool at the Los Alamitos Joint Training Base? Isn’t Long Beach building a new Olympic size pool at the Belmont pier?”

Laura Forrest said, “Yes to both. At Joint Forces, several swim (and) H2O pool clubs practice there as does LAHS teams, but it’s not open to the public. To drop off your kid you go through base security (show drivers license). Belmont pool is public (and) leased to teams (Shoreaquatics).”

Jim Bohlin said, “Everybody wants it. Nobody wants to pay for it. That’s life behind the Orange Curtain.”

Nancy Mitchell said, “I’m in the not on Navy property and no bonds to pay for it group.”

Greg Horne said, “Support the pool but need to shop around for a more reasonable bid on construction costs.”

From time to time, the Sun takes an informal survey to get a sense of what the public thinks about a local matter. Email your suggestions for questions to editor@sunnews.org.