NK Pool closure a possibility

POULSBO — The waters in the North Kitsap Community pool are cooler than they once were but issues surrounding its maintenance and operation costs are reaching a rolling boil.

The pool, which underwent a $4 million renovation in 2003, never has been much of moneymaker, but as the North Kitsap School District continues pouring funds into it to keep community and school programs afloat, there are questions as to whether or not the plug should simply be pulled.

Such sentiments are not going unnoticed in North Kitsap.

In November 2006, a 10-member pool task force was formed with the idea of ensuring the pool remains open to the community.

Task force member Randy Borek said the group became concerned after a remark made by NKSD board member Ed Strickland at a May 10 meeting.

“We heard that a board member made a comment about the possibility of the pool closing,” Borek said. “It’s pretty clear the costs of the pool will be an issue in this year’s school budget.”

Despite the possibility of closure, he said he believes the overwhelming majority of residents in the area support the pool as it is a recreational amenity that can be used by people of all ages.

“Parents have been pretty quiet about the pool because they didn’t think it had a chance to close,” Borek said. “Now there’s more public awareness regarding the issue. There’s a large amount of people in this community who support it.”

Borek and other pool supporters are expected to make their case at Thursday night’s school board meeting. They’ll have to bring sharp pencils in that, according to NKSD finance director Nancy Moffatt, it costs about $426,000 to run the pool each year. While revenues bring in about $206,000, she said, the NKSD ends up losing the remaining $220,000.

“We’re not asking the school board for an increase in funds,” Borek said. “But we want them to maintain the level of funds they have offered in the past. We have analyzed the pool operations and determined some ways to keep it open and have it run more efficiently.”

Borek said the task force is working to reduce the burden on the school district by creating a new marketing plan for the facility, one which includes a full-time pool manager.

“In the past budget cuts have reduced staff at the pool,” Borek said. The pool manager, he added, has had to double as the cashier and other duties outside of the job description and hasn’t had time to market the pool to create revenue. “If there’s more staff, it will allow the manager to market the pool to the community.”

Borek said the task force plan also includes a 10 percent increase in each swimming lesson session (currently $4 each) and a general admission fee increase of 25 cents, which would bring the cost for pool users to $3.25.

“Swimming lessons bring in by far the most revenue than any other activity at a swimming pool,” Borek said. “We don’t want to raise the fees too high, but we need to stay competitive with other pools in the area.”

Borek said in this vein, the long-term goal is to create as many partnerships as possible within the community to ensure the pool serves the public for years to come.

“Eventually, we would like to establish partnerships with the city, county, the tribes and the public parks districts,” he said. “Our primary goal is to keep the pool open. The pool needs to generate more revenue. The pool has the potential to do it.”

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