With a handful of community supporters watching, the Soldotna City Council voted to pay $50,000 toward keeping the Skyview swimming pool open. Although all council members voted unanimously in favor, several later expressed personal reservations over the decision.
The money would directly assist operational costs, and would come from the 2014-2015 city budget. The resolution states the funds would be a unique contribution.
Mayor Nels Anderson said the official request from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board was 20 percent of the overall cost of running the pool.
City Manager Mark Dixson said the annual expenses for Skyview are about $225,000. He said this is an issue that involves the entire community, not just the city.
There is a chance at the April 14 school board meeting that the board will still decide to close the pool, Anderson said.
“In practical terms the I think the school board is looking for an excuse to put the pool back in the budget,” Anderson said.
Anderson said it might persuade the board to open the pool next year if they have other funding coming from the community. Council member Pete Sprague said while he doesn’t understand why the Borough won’t make any adjustments when they have the leeway, he was happy to see the council making an effort.
Council member Meggean Bos she said it was easy to see how important keeping the pool open was to the community. However, she hopes the District Borough will exhaust all possibilities in compromising with the community. Bos also suggested when Skyview turns into a middle school next year they should extend the open swim hours so more residents might take advantage of the facilities.
As an educator at Soldotna High School she said she had a hard time justifying the school district cutting teachers and staff support but paying for the pool, Bos said. She sees it as a Borough issue, not a city issue.
Refering to the most recent request for the city to purchase the Birchwood Golf Course, she said, “more and more entities want us to help out, but at what point is it beyond our control?”
Council member Linda Murphy said swimming education saves lives and is a good family activity. The community testimony from seven community members that evening swayed her to vote “yes”. However, if she saw the same allocation in the budget next year she would not support it again.
“Even though the funds are in the budget, the budget is still subject to amendments during the budget process,” Shellie Saner, City Clerk. “The budget work session is tentatively scheduled for May 14.”