Feb 12 2011

Opinon: Errors Noted in Piedmont Post article on Piedmont Swim Club

A Letter from Tim Rood, President of the Piedmont Swim Club, concerning a Piedmont Post article on Swim Club lease negotiations.

Your February 9 article’s suggestions that the City staff didn’t know about the renovation in the 1990’s that removed the pool gutters and that the language the City was seeking in the new lease was needed to prevent a similar occurrence was wrong on both counts. First, both the Club’s and City’s lease proposals required the City’s prior approval of projects over $25,000. Second, the City approved the renovation plans that removed the gutters in the 1990s – the renovation plans stamped “Approved – City of Piedmont” are on file at City Hall. So if, as you suggest, that work was done “apparently without the direct knowledge of City staff,” they must not have been doing their jobs very well.

The notion presented by Council members Wieler and Fujioka that the City Attorney’s one-sided lease language was non-negotiable and necessary to protect the City is laughable. The City is now going to spend about $300k of taxpayers money annually 1) because the Swim Club offered to give it the right to have a neutral arbitrator decide whether an expenditure from the Club-funded Capital Improvement Fund was improper, but not the right to veto our use of those funds and keep the money; 2) because maintaining the pool in satisfactory condition was no longer good enough – we had to let them change anything that wasn’t to their liking and send us the bill; 3) because we wouldn’t agree to pick up the entire tab for the City’s legal costs if a lease voluntarily entered into was challenged; and 4) because we questioned why we should have to get pollution insurance that no other pool has, although we said we would look into it. This language certainly would have protected the City, but no reasonable operator could have agreed to it. The cost of insisting on a blank check from the Swim Club families is that the City now has to assume the cost of running the pool.

In fact the haz mat fight, despite their trying to dress it up as a big language issue, was really over who paid for the insurance the City said it needed and we questioned. The City could have agreed to buy its own insurance and let the Club operate the pool, saving the taxpayers the $300k. Now, the City will have to buy that insurance anyway, have the added risk that it is now potentially liable as the one handling the materials, not just the owner of the land, and will have to shell out the $300k to operate the pool. If that somehow makes the City better off, we fail to see how. Still, many Swim Club families look forward to more affordable public access to the pool under municipal operation, with the cost apportioned over all of Piedmont’s 3,600 households instead of the 500 families who had been paying the full freight for so many years.

Tim Rood
Piedmont Swim Club Board President

(This letter expresses the personal opinions of the author. All statements made are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.)

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