News

Pool fans swamp City Hall

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

As budget talks kicked off at the Federal Way City Council meeting Tuesday night, council chambers was packed with people eager to express support of a service they want to see preserved: the Kenneth Jones pool.

City finance director Iwen Wang told council members the pool question was the most answered question on a recent city survey to gather public input on capital projects.

About 64 percent of the pool question respondents even supported a tax increase of $.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value to keep the pool open.

King County Executive Ron Sims announced last summer the county would be mothballing its Forward Thrust pools because of budget problems.

The county asked incorporated cities in which pools were located if they wanted to assume responsibility for the facilities. If not, the pools will close permanently.

But assuming responsibility for the pool is expected to cost the city about $300,000 a year, according to a recent assessment report issued by Tres West Engineers, Inc. That’s not including the cost of rehabilitations and repairs on the 32-year-old pool.

Pool filters need to be replaced, according to Tres West’s report, and the boiler needs to be replaced. The refrigerant system also needs some repairs and the assessment team suggested installing outdoor lighting.

In a tough economic climate, city council members aren’t sure the money will be available to keep the pool open.

Councilman Mike Hellickson said if there is any money available in the current budget for extra city services, they should be spent on public safety or transportation.

“We should be providing essential public services. The city should not be providing entertainment,” he said. “Cities should be providing things people can’t provide for themselves. When we start paying to entertain people in a time of recession, we’ve got a problem.”

Councilman Mike Park said he doesn’t have a position yet because he hasn’t completely reviewed the information, but said assumption of the pool would be “quite an expenditure in a tight budget situation.”

Many who attended the council meeting urged the city to consider assuming responsibility of the pool because it’s the only place in town where regular swimmers can go.

Susan Pearson told the council her family went to Family Swim every Friday night when her children were younger. One of her children is very athletic and the other is severely disabled.

“Swimming was the only thing we could do as a whole family,” she said.

Her daughter today can hardly walk, but she can still swim and her son went on to swim for the Huskies. “Please continue to support this pool,” she said.

Alice Thorstad said she learned to swim at the Kenneth Jones pool decades ago and today participates in water aerobics there.

“I used to swim a mile a day,” she said. “I brought my grandchildren to learn to swim there.”

Swimming provides a low-impact way for senior citizens to stay healthy and doctors frequently recommend seniors or people with injuries or disabilities swim to get exercise.

Ally Moody, who said she’ll be 87 by the end of this year, said she’s living proof.

“The reason I think I’m standing here tonight is because I’ve been able to go to the Federal Way Pool twice a week for all those years,” she said.

Another man told the council he has artificial hips and knees and a rebuilt ankle. “If it wasn’t for the pool, I’d be in a wheelchair now,” he said.

Councilwoman Linda Kochmar said she wants city staff to go back into the city’s budget to see if there are things that could be done later in order to make room for the pool.

“We’re going to keep that pool open,” she said. “The question is, what will it take?”

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