Jun 27 2020

Piedmont Pool History from No Cost to Huge City Expense and Potential Discontinued Pool Use

The Community Pool was operated for decades at no cost to the City by the Piedmont Swim Club, a non-profit organization.  It was used by the community, Swim  Club members, the Piedmont Recreation Department, Piedmont schools, and the Piedmont Swim Team.  The Piedmont Unified School District teams were incorporated into the lease of  the pool starting in 1998.  The Piedmont Swim Team, (separate from the School District), submitted a letter supporting continued operation and funding by the Piedmont Swim Club.

In 2010, the Piedmont Swim Club wanted to continue to operate and pay the expenses for the pool; however, in a closed, private meeting, the City Council decided not to renew the $1 lease with the Club and the City assumed the full expense of operating and maintaining the pool.

At the June 29, 2020 Special Meeting, the Piedmont City Council will consider ceasing the pool operation. Discontinued pool operations will likely be coupled with any tax increases on a November 2020 ballot measure.  The cost of a new “Aquatic Center” has been roughly estimated to cost $15,000,000. 

The following article was published on this site by the Piedmont Civic Association on Aug 14, 2010. _____________

Piedmont Swim Club Pools Open but Lease Still in Limbo

Aug 14, 2010

The Swim Club’s lease expires on June 30, 2011.  At that time, unless a new lease has been signed, the facility will revert to the City.   It would then be up to the City to either shutter it or find the funds to operate it.  Without a lease, the Swim Club would be forced to dissolve.  The Swim Club Board is actively negotiating with the City for a new long-term lease.   According to Tim Rood,  Swim Club President:

“In 2008, we successfully negotiated a 3-year extension that removed the requirement for the Swim Club to pay a minimum cash rent, saving the members $114,000 over the three years.   Following a meeting to discuss lease terms with the City Manager and City Attorney, on March 30, 2010, we sent the City a proposal for a 15-year lease, offering to continue to maintain the facility and provide the same, mostly unpaid use by the Piedmont Swim Team, the schools and the Recreation Department – estimated at over $70,000 at prevailing facility rental rates.”

After working on it in closed session, the City returned a mark-up of the lease proposal on May 7.  Rood reports the City indicated that it wants to require the

Swim Club:
– to pay rent, but not how much;
– to contribute to a capital improvement fund, but not in what amount;
– to turn over any funds remaining upon expiration of the lease to the City (which conflicts with Club by-laws);
– to submit to periodic review and arbitration of the longstanding use arrangements during the term of the lease;
– to purchase additional liability coverage and earthquake insurance at considerable expense and questionable benefit.

The City Council further stated that “there are some other items that the Council may want to propose changes on, but they want to think them over further.”

The Council also asked the Recreation Commission to review the use arrangements that have been in effect since 1998.  The Commission recommended to keep school use more or less at current levels and not to add the additional school aquatic programs that the School District had requested.  The Piedmont Swim Team has previously submitted a letter of support for a new Swim Club lease.

In response, the Swim Club Board began preparing long-term financial projections and estimates of the value of the community use provided, obtaining quotes on the additional insurance coverage the City requested, and researching facility rental costs and recreational/lap swimming costs at competing facilities.

In 2006, a consultant studied the option of converting to a City operated pool and determined it would have required annual subsidies from the City’s general fund of $127,000 to $327,000 in excess of revenues from pool operation.  Considering the City’s recent budget deficit situation, the Swim Club Board expects to resolve the contract, avoiding this new expense to the City. Source: October 3, 2006 City Minutes, Consultant’s Report, and Staff Report)  [2020 NOTE: City reports no longer available.]

A significant change from previous leases is found in 9(c) of the Swim Club’s proposed lease, which opens the Swim Club to 130 non-Piedmont residents, expanding possible membership total to 650 from the current approximate 500.

The recent closure required by Alameda County Department of Environmental Health for non-compliance with California State Law AB1020 at the height of summer added to the ongoing stress on the Swim Club membership and the City. Read more about closures.

For additional information on this issue, Mr. Rood recommends a recent article by Linda Davis of the Piedmonter summarizing the complexities of the pool closure and lease negotiations.”

City Administrator Sara Lillevand states in her 2020-2021 Budget overview:

“We are nearing a decision point regarding the future of the Community Pool. The present facility is more than 50 years old and no longer meets the needs of the community. Given its age and the lack of substantial investment over its life, the pool has become increasingly costly to maintain. We completed a comprehensive condition assessment of the entire facility and associated operating systems in 2018. The report indicated an investment of approximately $350,000 will be required to keep the aquatic facility safe and operational in its current form for the next 3-5 years, and an additional minimum investment of approximately $1.5 million to extend its life up to ten years. These renovation and repair costs are in addition to the rising subsidy required to operate the pool. For 2020-21 we are budgeting a decrease in revenue due to poor trends and an increase in operating costs of $120,000. Overall, we are projecting an operating loss of $368,000. In order to maintain a reasonable reserve of approximately $66,000 in the Aquatics Fund, we propose a subsidy transfer from the “General Fund of $300,000, which is $50,000 higher than last year.” May 6, 2020

On Monday, June 29, 2020, 7:30 p.m., at a Special Meeting of the Piedmont City Council, the Council will consider whether or not to discontinue use of the Community Pool because of ongoing maintenance and expense issues.

Links for participation and information are below: 

PCA council-current-agenda (1) 6292020 < Agenda

PCA Continued Operation of the Piedmont Community Pool < Staff Report

Budget Overview – 

One Response to “Piedmont Pool History from No Cost to Huge City Expense and Potential Discontinued Pool Use”

  1. I’m curious as to who originally paid to build the pool, the Swim Club or the City? Your post implies that the no cost arrangement with the Swim Club could have continued indefinitely. I don’t believe that – how would the Swim Club have handled the rapidly escalating cost of maintaining a pool near the end of its life? Eventually it would need to be rebuilt. Would the Swim Club have been able to raise that amount of money? If so, perhaps the Swim Club should be re-started.
    I am not a swimmer, but I think an aquatic center would be a great asset for Piedmont. I think it should be city owned. Like our parks, sports fields, and other shared resources, it would cost money to build and maintain. I would support a bond measure.

    On another note, I appreciate your site, but why are authors of posts on PCA not listed? I am asked to give my name to comment on your post, why can’t I see your name(s)?

    EDITORS’ NOTE: The pool was originally built and paid for by the Swim Club.
    The 2010 article re-published above quotes the letter from the Swim Club President Tim Rood written to the City Council, summarizes his recommendations in an article, plus links to Council Minutes, Consultant’s Report, City Administrator Overview, and City Staff Report.

    PCA articles are reviewed by the all volunteer Editorial Board. Like The Economist magazine, the Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) does not have bylines. However, “Opinion” articles clearly identify the author. Consulting “About Us” and “FAQs” on this website will provide information about the mission of the 34 year old volunteer organization. Articles and ideas sent to editors@piedmontcivic.org are welcomed. Thank you for sharing your opinions.

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