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Save Our Pool group: North Kitsap school board's response is aggravating
POULSBO — Working with the North Kitsap School District board of directors to save the community pool is like working in a vacuum, say the Save Our Pool co-organizers.
Attorney Andrew Sargent and Certified Public Accountant Randy Borek joined forces in April to save the pool after learning the NKSD 2008-09 general fund budget did not include the $350,000 community pool subsidy.
The pool’s plug would most likely be pulled at the end of the fiscal year, Aug. 31.
While the duo was able to form the Save Our Pool 501 c3 nonprofit and begin bringing in the cash in less than two weeks, cementing a meeting with the board took slightly longer.
Two and a half months, to be exact.
Borek said he’s made repeated requests and sent e-mails calling for a joint SOP and board meeting since April. The meeting finally took place July 3, and included city of Poulsbo representatives.
“My biggest frustration has been the (board’s) lack of working with us, the lack (of board) cooperation,” Sargent said. “We started two and a half months ago and just had our first sit-down meeting with staff and two board members.”
This is a source of frustration for the nonprofit’s organizers because there are questions that need answers, but no one from the district would field the questions.
“There’s been absolutely nothing,” Sargent said. “We’re working in a vacuum.”
Among the questions: Are corporate naming rights a possibility; if a parks and recreation metropolitan district is the long-term solution, what is the district willing to transfer over; why hasn’t a pool blanket (used to retain heat in the water and save energy costs) been purchased; would the board be willing to fund the pool quarter by quarter; and how was the estimated annual cost of $350,000 derived?
Borek said the $350,000 subsidy number is “pulled out of somewhere, it’s not supported by anything,” and is roughly $100,000 more than what he figured when crunching the numbers.
“The best I came up with is $250,000-$275,000 and that’s going from their budget,” Borek said. “At a look that might not seem like much, but it has a huge impact on our community efforts.”
Another number discrepancy is the pool’s utilities, as no one actually knows the true cost. The pool utilities are on the same meter as Poulsbo Middle School, so the costs are guestimates based on building square footage.
At a July 10 budget/pool study session, NKSD Executive Director of Finance and Operations Nancy Moffatt said the pool’s utilities are $180,000-$185,000.
Sargent said he’s asked time and again if the board would keep the pool open for a quarter at a time, and he still doesn’t have a clue.
“All I get is silence,” he said.
Borek got a $15,000 quote for a pool blanket. He said the blanket would save as much as 30 percent or $37,800 of the natural gas cost to heat the water, which currently rings in at $126,000.
“Thirty percent is a big number,” Borek said. “They should have bought one (pool blanket) years ago.”
While both Sargent and Borek agree subsidizing a community pool shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the school district, as it is a community asset, they also said the board made a commitment to take it over and it’s the board’s obligation until long-term funding is in place. Especially because the voters passed the 2001 bond with approximately $4.5 million ear-tagged to renovate the pool.
“They made a commitment when they took it over. They made a commitment with the bond,” Sargent said. “People would not have given them the bond if they said ‘We’re going to close it.’ Long-term it should be funded by another entity, but until then that’s their obligation.”
Both agree the best solution is a parks and recreation metropolitan taxing district. But organizing the district will take at least two years, so a short-term solution must be found. That solution has yet to appear, but a joint SOP, NKSD, city of Poulsbo, Kitsap County and Public Facilities District representatives meeting is slated for July 24.
Sargent and Borek said they felt energized after the first meeting because it was the first time they actually got to meet face-to-face.
“I was very glad we got everybody at the table,” Sargent said.
To date the SOP nonprofit has raised approximately $30,000.
Their plan is to keep raising money, and continue engaging the school board in the solution.
“We need a big shot in the arm,” Borek said. “Even if the school board said we’re listening it would be a huge boost to the community.”
On Sunday SOP and Poulsbo Running are hosting a 5k fun run fundraiser at Port Gamble. Early entry fee is $20 and day of the race registration is $25. A T-shirt is included. The race starts at 9 a.m.
For more information or donations visit www.savethenorthkitsappool.org.