Feb 21 2011

Opinion: Were the City’s Swim Club Lease Demands Realistic?

A letter from the President of the Piedmont Swim Club:

The Piedmont Swim Club has finally obtained a quote on the million-dollar pollution insurance the City demanded we purchase as part of a new lease.  The annual premium is $10,325, with a $10,000 deductible, for the $1 million of coverage the city insisted on.  At the Feb. 7  City Council meeting, City Attorney Tom Curry said he was concerned about liability to the City from chlorine somehow leaching into the ground, and Council Members Fujioka and Wieler stated that this lease provision was non-negotiable despite the unknown cost and questionable benefit.

The chlorine is stored in one-gallon plastic jugs, four jugs to a plastic crate. The jugs contain mostly water – the actual chlorine content is only twice that of ordinary laundry bleach. If a jug were to spring a leak, the containment crate were to also leak, and chlorine were to then find its way through a 4-6 inch thick concrete slab, some part of that gallon could get into the ground  – where, presumably, it would make the ground-water safer, as it does the water in the pool.  A spill of more than a gallon would require the spontaneous leaking of multiple jugs and multiple crates.

It would have made no economic sense for the club to buy this expensive insurance, which no other pool we’re aware of carries, unless there was a non-trivial risk such a spill would occur in the next 15 years (it hadn’t in the last 46) and it would have cost more than $160,000 in today’s dollars to clean it up. Even if a spill occurred in the next year, insurance would only make sense if the cleanup cost or liability exceeded $20,350 (the premium plus the deductible). The club said it was skeptical of the need for this insurance but willing to look into its cost.  Now that the cost is known, we would have argued that, if the city really wants this coverage, it should waste $10,325 of its own money and buy it itself, not require the club to do so. The City will now have to do that anyway, as well as cover the pool’s $300,000 annual operating shortfall.

As the new pool operator, the City now has the unenviable choice of either wasting the taxpayer’s money on this unnecessary insurance, or choosing not to purchase it and thereby confirming that holding the lease hostage to this unreasonable demand was simply a pretense for not being willing to make a deal at all.

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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