Aug 24 2010

Commentary on recent closings of pools at PSC

Commentary by Jon Sakol, Piedmont resident, on the recent closing of  the pools at the Piedmont Swim Club with his Letter to the Editor in response to Josh Bernstein’s recently published comments — as submitted to PCA, The Piedmonter and Piedmont Post.

Commentary by Jon Sakol, Piedmont resident, on the recent closing of  the pools at the Piedmont Swim Club with his letter as submitted to PCA, The Piedmonter and Piedmont Post:

We need to get people to stop seeing the Piedmont Swim Club (PSC) as some exclusive club that gets some great benefit from the City for free.  We’re just a bunch of volunteers who are running and paying for the pool so the City doesn’t have to.

There are only two alternatives here: either PSC provides swimming for the community or the City does.  Whatever views people have on that, the reality is the City doesn’t have the money to add another $300,000 to its budget right now and, given the economy, the community isn’t going to build a $10,000,000+ pool facility.  The worst thing that can happen in the short term is for the City to dither and then dump things back on PSC near the end of the current lease next June.

The politicking over the last several years has caused PSC membership to drop because people drop out as their kids grow up or they move and no one wants to take their place because they don’t want to pay the $1,500 initiation fee not knowing whether the club is going to continue to exist.  If we are to have a new lease, it is imperative that we know that soon enough to have time to rebuild the membership so the club is economically viable.  Otherwise, the City is going to wind up with the pool whether it wants it or not.

The irony is that Berkeley failed to pass a measure on the March ballot to refurbish its pools and San Jose had to close its city run pools for budgetary reasons and then arrange for local non-profits to run some of them so they could have a summer swimming program.  Piedmont has a better deal through PSC, but a lot of people just don’t get it.

Text of Mr. Sakol’s Letter to the Editor follows:

To the Editor:

Josh Bernstein’s August 19, 2010 letter to the Editor [Piedmont Post]  “Time to reconsider pool management” makes several claims that could  only be true in the world of Alice Through the Looking Glass, where things mean their opposites.  First, it claims “[e]very taxpayer subsidizes the rent and operation of this private club.”  In fact, the Piedmont Swim Club is not some exclusive “private” entity.  Anyone in Piedmont who wants to join and is willing to pay the initiation fee and dues to support swimming in Piedmont is free to do so.  The device of a “private” club is simply what allows swimming to happen in Piedmont at no taxpayer expense.  Through its fees and dues, the Club operates the pool and supports the swimming programs of the Piedmont school district, recreation department, and swim team.  The pool was built on donated land with donated funds and, whether the Club has paid the nominal rent it paid for 15 years or the no rent it has paid for the other 31, it has never cost the taxpayers a dime.  Contrast that with the proposed, City-operated new aquatics center–with a competition pool, a lap pool and a children’s pool–Josh Bernstein is the principal advocate for.  The City’s 2006 outside consultant’s report found that city operation of the pool (new or old) would require a taxpayer subsidy of up to $325,000.  It put the cost of building a competition pool alone at $10 million.  How the Club’s operation, which costs the taxpayers nothing, involves a taxpayer “subsidy” and the proposed multi-million dollar, City-operated aquatic center involves none, only Humpty Dumpty could explain.  Second, the letter refers to the “years of acrimony between the City and the [Club]”.  The only acrimony I am aware of comes from two small factions: those who want to use the pool facilities but don’t want to join the Club to pay for them, and those who support the dream aquatics center but, as yet, haven’t been able to convince the rest of  the community to fund their dream.  Finally, the letter implies that the recent pool closure involved a lack of “safety oversight”.  How it reaches that conclusion when the DEH inspector who closed the pool found it was in compliance with the new safety laws, the letter doesn’t say.  (The pool was initially closed because of failure to have certified that compliance, even though the law and DEH’s own web site said that certification was not due until September 30.  It then remained closed so the drains and drain pipes could be reconfigured at DEH’s request to increase the flow rate of water through the drains by less than 10%.  See,   A recent KTVU report found that Alameda County has been shutting down ten public pools a week since July 1 and is the only county in the area that has found the need to do so in the middle of the summer.  That is the real story.

Jon Sakol

Leave a Comment