Juneau, AK (KINY) - The potential future of Juneau pools was brought to the public in a presentation by the CBJ Aquatics Board on Tuesday evening.
Aquatics Board was established in 2015 by an Assembly adopted Ordinance. The Board was originally put together due to budget issues that proposed shutting down one of the pools, Augustus Brown in 2014.
The Board will cease to exist in May 28th of this year, which will move the management of the city’s pools back to Parks and Recreation, provided there is not action taken to keep the Board around. Since the Board’s formation, there has been an upswing in people using the facilities, especially with the introduction of the Dimond Park Aquatic Center. Cost recovery has seen a bit of an increase with about a third of the cost being recovered through things like usage fees. The most important thing for the Aquatics Board was to get people into the pools. Mertz attributed the increase in numbers to the staff at work who have also been a big part of regular events.
The question is if the Aquatics Board should continue being a part of keeping the pools cared for in the manner that’s shown the improvement achieved. Right now, they are looking at what options are available to continue their work. Those options includes letting the Board sunset, leave the Board as is, change the Board status to that of an empowered board, or contract with a non-profit group.
Members of the public showed concerned about switching to a YMCA controlled model, specifically with worries about raises in prices. Chris Mertl spoke as a member of the public, thanking the Aquatics Board for the work that’s been done in the last few years. Mertl recommends the Board stick around, but admits there is a lot more work for the Board to do.
We talked to Max Mertz of the Aquatics Board, who talked about the importance of public meetings and getting that input.
“We have been working on identifying for the Assembly what the options that they could consider, if they wanted to extend the board or not extend the board. A big part of that is to have community input. We've been very deliberate in that; we think it's critical that the public has a say in this.”
“So we designed two public meetings, the one tonight and the one next week to help give us the best information that we we can in order to give it to the Assembly. I think the board’s hope and the public’s hope is that we have a really good aquatic program here in Juneau.”
We also asked him on what he hopes the future of Juneau pools looks like.
“We live on the water. Our kids are on the water everyday, whether they're on the boats or walking along the water. It's imperative that kids know how to swim.”
“It’s also an excellent recreation. Adults use it into the senior ages. There are times that there's not a lot else you can do, but get in the pool and go for a swim as you get to be more elderly. The pools fill a critical need. We are a wet, cold climate in the wintertime, recreation opportunities are fewer, so indoor recreation opportunities are super important.”
“We hope that 5 - 10 years from now our two facilities Dimond Park and Augustus Brown will be well-maintained, everybody will be able to use them when they want to, and that they're adequately funded.”
“That's that's why I serve. That's why our Board is here and hopefully we can count on that into the future.”
The Aquatics Board will meet with the Assembly on March 14th and potentially give a recommendation on how to move forward.