PUBLISHED: 5:38 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Valley pool proposal waits for approval
In the municipal election of October 2005, Juneau residents voted against a proposed aquatic facility. This year, Friends of the Valley Pool have worked diligently to come up with a new proposal; their goal is to see it placed on the October 2007 ballot.

The proposed project is smaller and considerably less expensive than the previous effort; however, it will be responsive to Juneau's need of an additional pool facility. Serving community needs, the pool services recreational users, children, seniors and the disabled. The new valley pool proposal is about eight million less than the 2005 proposal's $28.5 million.

"We looked at what failed last time and started looking at what the needs are," Max Mertz said of Friends of the Valley Pool.

The swimming pool, which will be located adjacent to Thunder Mountain High School, will offer the new high school and the residents of the valley the same type of arrangement downtown residents and Juneau-Douglas High School enjoy.

The group has worked with the School District to plan the facility so that the new pool, along with the existing Augustus Brown Pool, will be used to reintroduce a "Learn to Swim Program" in Juneau's schools. The program will include swim and other water-related classes to be taught to Juneau's elementary and middle school students.

"It's designed so it can really meet the needs that the Augustus Brown Pool doesn't serve," Mertz said.

Like the recently constructed Petersburg pool and the pool to be built in Kodiak, the "educational component" of the pool should be eligible for the State of Alaska's educational facilities reimbursement program.

The district prepared and submitted the necessary application for approval of the "educational component" to the state. State funds should pay for approximately one-third of the cost.

The group hired HMS, Inc. of Anchorage, one of Alaska's foremost independent cost estimation firms, to determine a cost estimate of the facility with a planned build date beginning in 2009. As a result, the total cost is anticipated to be approximately $19.8 million (in 2009 dollars).

The state's reimbursement program should fund approximately $5.9 -$7.7 million of this cost, making the cost to Juneau's residents approximately $12.1 million to $13.8 million.

The group has also looked very closely at the new pool's operating budget, and the best way to manage the new pool is combining with the existing pool.

The Valley Pool along with the downtown pool will be operated as one pool program, Mertz said.

The proposed facility will take advantage of the existing pool management infrastructure at the CBJ. The Valley pool can be designed to allow concurrent recreational uses in the lap and recreational pool to maximize revenues and limit the impact on the CBJ budget.

The committee is requesting that the entire cost of the pool, $19.8 million plus $50,000 in bond costs, be placed on the October 2007 ballot as a general obligation bond proposition. The Juneau School District has applied to ADEED to determine reimbursement eligibility for the pool as a component of the Thunder Mountain High School. Any bond obligation that is not reimbursed by the state could be funded with sales tax.

"The Juneau Chamber of Commerce has passed a resolution in favor of the pool," Mertz said.

The Valley Community Pool Project will be funded by GO Bonds.

According to CEO Cathie Roemmich, of the Chamber of Commerce, the GO Bonds amount to $19.8 million with the local component not to exceed $13.9 million and include the following caveats: The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development reimburses a portion of the construction costs, and the same community group that developed the pool plan should be involved in determining the final design and best means for operating the combined CBJ pools, including private entities.

The following are the minimum components to be included in the Valley Pool: a six lane by 25-yard lap pool; a therapeutic and recreational pool that is slightly larger than the lap pool; a zero entry feature, pool layout and warmer temperature of this pool will allow for water aerobics and other recreational and therapy purposes, including wheelchair access; 80-100 foot curved pool slide; one-meter diving board; chair lifts mounted at the sides of each pool to allow access for disabled persons and an elevated viewing area.

"This is not a 'Taj Mahal,' it's a pool but a nice pool. We think this is something that can be operated and be a good thing for the community; we've made a concerted effort to address issues," Mertz said.

"It's very important for (the) community to understand we're at a conceptual stage-once this thing is approved we will have a finalized view," he said.