Port Angeles pool expansion could mean fee increase; director outlines plans

Steve Burke

EDITOR’S NOTE: The estimated cost to homeowners of the levies the William Shore Memorial Pool commissioners plan to approve if voters approve the debt limit increase has been corrected.

PORT ANGELES — Facility user fees at William Shore Memorial Pool could increase by 25 cents — to $5.50 — for operating costs if voters approve a general election ballot measure that would lead to expansion of the center, pool Executive Director Steve Burke said Tuesday.

Burke described the fee hike in an interview following a presentation on Proposition 1 to two dozen Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting participants.

Burke, who is also a Port of Port Angeles commissioner, outlined details on the $12 million project.

The increase in the pool district’s debt limit requires a 60 percent supermajority of voters for approval.

If the measure is approved, it would allow the district to go ahead with a planned $12 million expansion of the 225 E. Fifth St. pool facility, which opened in 1962 and has been operated since 2009 by a voter-approved metropolitan park district.

If voters approve the debt-capacity increase, commissioners would levy an additional approximate amount of 6 cents per $1,000 of valuation for the levy-funded portion of the project.

They already have permission to increase the levy but lack permission to increase the debt load, which is why the district must go to the voters in the Nov. 7 election.

General obligation bonds totaling up to $3.5 million would be issued if the measure is approved — and if grant funding is issued for the project.

The pool district’s voter and property-tax-collection boundaries are identical to the Port Angeles School District’s, which had 20,653 voters as of Monday.

The features of the larger pool facility would include smaller group, or universal, locker rooms and more family-change and individual-change rooms within the renovated, aging pool building as part of the overall plan.

The clothes-changing areas would be available to pool users who generally want more privacy and who identify as transgender individuals, Burke said.

On Tuesday, PABA member Kaj Ahlburg brought up the topic of transgender locker facilities during the meeting.

“Under state law in Washington state, with men and women using [each] other’s locker rooms and you can’t keep them out, what do you expect and how are they being organized?

“Are you going to have individual stalls, or can a guy walk into the ladies’ locker room because that’s what the law allows them to do?”

Burke responded that the pool’s locker-room amenities were among pool users’ top concerns.

“Ironically, [in] people’s opinions, they care more about the locker room than they do actually about the pool,” Burke told the group.

The project, which would add 10,000 square feet to the 15,000-square-foot Fifth Street facility, also would include moving the entrance to the Lincoln Street side, add a kids’ splash area and a warm-water-therapy pool.

Demand has doubled from 50,000 annual visits when the pool district was formed in 2009 to provide a steady source of funding to 100,000 visits in 2016 — consistent also with 2017, Burke said — and includes regular use and training by personnel from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.

Voters will decide by Nov. 7 — ballots were mailed to voters Oct. 18 — on whether to increase the pool district’s debt by $3.5 million, to about $10 million.

That money would be supplemented by $5.5 million in bonds from existing levy capacity and $3 million in state grants that Burke said he is confident would be available if voters approve the debt limit increase.

The board then plans to increase the levy, now at 18 cents per $1,000 of valuation. That would add, for example, to the property tax bill of the owner of a $200,000 house $12.80 per year.

Later the board would add an estimated 4 cents per $1,000 to complete the expansion. That would mean the owner of $200,000 home would have about $20 annually added to the tax.

The district’s current tax raised $525,000 this year.

Burke said he does not see the pool district collecting the maximum 75-cents-per-$1,000 in levy capacity — about $2.2 million — that it can collect from property owners.

“It’s a crazy number,” he said. “That’s an unrealistic amount for us in any circumstance.”

Burke predicted that the pool district would stick with the 28 cents per $1,000 of valuation — the current 18-cent levy and the 10 cents per $1,000 for the pool expansion — until the district paid off the bond for the project in 2050.

Construction would begin in 2019 and necessitate full closure of the pool from February-August 2020, when the new facility would open, he said.

Operating costs would increase by about $75,000 in the pool operating budget, which is currently $600,000, Burke said in the later interview.

The pool district board would have to approve a facility-fee increase, which Burke predicted would probably be about 25 cents and could occur before construction begins.

The increase would cover the facility-use fee, not children’s swimming lessons, Burke said, adding the fees have not increased in four years.

“The goal is to keep it as affordable as possible,” Burke said.

Project organizers have found “kind of a middle ground” on the locker rooms, he said.

“Now, we have one family change room, and that doesn’t work really well.”

Some pool users simply want more privacy and “don’t want someone walking in on them,” Burke said later.

The pool will have six full-service changing areas with showers and toilets, six individual changing rooms without showers and the one universal locker room with a shower area set off to the side.

“We spent more time working on how the locker room design should be than any other part of the project,” Burke said later.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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