Parks Commission supports pool project

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The swimming pool at McGaugh Elementary School, pictured above, is drawing to the end of its life. City officials are weighing the benefits of having a community pool versus the economic costs of building one. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

The Seal Beach Recreation and Parks Commission voted 3-0 last Wednesday, Feb. 26, to recommend building a swimming pool at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. (One commissioner was absent and one abstained.)

The council will officially receive that recommendation next week.

In related news, Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey said staff would present a study session to the City Council on Monday, March 23 to report the results of the outreach to the community.

Many seats were filled in the Council Chambers last week.

The City Council will receive the Parks Commission’s recommendation at the council’s Monday, March 9, meeting, according to a staff report by Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey.

“In 2014 the City with Westberg and White performed an extensive community outreach program,” Kelsey wrote, referring to the city’s design consultant for the proposed pool project.

“The result of this outreach was that the most desired location for a future community pool was the naval weapons station along Seal Beach Boulevard near the Seal Beach Police Station,” Kelsey wrote.

“During a project update to the Council in January 2020 the City Council asked the staff to continue the community outreach process to gather more feedback from the community,” Kelsey wrote.

“As a result of this request the City scheduled 2 public outreach meetings to provide more detailed information to the community and receive feedback from the community,” Kelsey wrote.

The last of those two meetings took place the Saturday prior to the Recreation and Parks Commission meetings. Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos told the commission that the city government didn’t have any more pool workshops planned.

Kelsey told the commission that the financial considerations for the pool project were beyond the purview of the Parks Commission.

Kelsey said 165 individuals signed in at the two February 2020 pool workshops. According to Kelsey, for the Feb. 13 meeting, 58 individuals signed in. For the Feb. 22 meeting, 106 individuals signed in. (But 110 votes were cast in favor of a 50-meter pool at the Feb. 22 meeting, indicating that more people attended the event than signed in.)

According to Kelsey, a majority of participants in the combined meetings favored a 50-meter pool.

During the public comment part of the meeting, Scott Weir said he grew up in Seal Beach and watched the McGaugh pool being built. He said at the time it was state-of-the-art.

Weir said thousands had learned to swim and trained in the McGaugh pool. He recomended Seal Beach build another state-of-the-art pool.

Nancy Smith mentioned the polls on the Sun News website and the Nextdoor social media platform. She said some people were struggling with the cost of the proposed pool.

(The most recent estimate puts the cost of a 59-meter pool at $22.7 million.)

Dan Bailey said the city need to get to work on funding the project. He said the more time passes, the costs are going to increase and it will be harder. Bailey said if the pool doesn’t go in “there will be a lot of regrets.”

In all, 15 individuals addressed the Parks Commission. Of them 14 were wholeheartedly in favor of the pool.

District Two Parks Commissioner Jim Dunphy asked for a show of hands in favor of the pool. Most hands shot up. Dunphy asked for the opposition to show their hands.

Zero hands went up.

Council comments

“Of course the hot topic at the moment is how we proceed on the community pool issue now that we have an order of magnitude cost estimate for a 50m [meter] pool and commensurate facilities and parking,” said District One Councilman Joe Kalmick in a March 2 email to the Sun. “We now have a basis to see what size options we should be looking at, where costs can be pared down, look at public/private partnerships and sponsorships, and financing alternatives that would allow us to continue providing a community amenity that we have had for almost 60 years.”

District Three Councilman Michael Varipapa wrote: “Yes, most of my constituents have enjoyed the pool open houses and the Parks and Rec meeting. They are very supportive at this time.” The proposed pool would be built on the grounds of Naval Weapons Seal Beach, on Seal Beach Boulevard, near the Submarine Memorial. The site is located in Councilman Varipapa’s district.

“In regards to the Pool project, I am still gathering information from the public, the contractor and the City,” wrote District Two Councilman Thomas Moore. “I have asked to see a break-down of the costs that make up the large amounts of money to see more detail in why the price is so high. There is a group of people that use the current pool that have been very vocal and positive about the project, but it is important to consider all of the residents because the cost of this will affect all residents. I will continue to keep an open mind until we need to make a decision.”