INFRASTRUCTURE – Council requests proposals for Begg Pool replacement
by Mark McDermott
A community survey has found support for a new, bigger, and better version of the aging Begg Pool. The Manhattan Beach City Council on Tuesday night instructed staff to find out what a new Begg Pool would cost by issuing a request for proposals (RFP).
The survey, conducted by TrueNorth Research in October and presented at Tuesday’s Council meeting, showed that 35.4 of residents are “very interested” in a new aquatics center and 20.7 are “somewhat interested.” The survey also showed that, if a facility is built, 81 percent of households favored prioritizing a new 35-meter pool for swimming laps, swim competitions and water sports, while 73 percent favored a shallow teaching/therapy pool for swim lessons, water aerobics, water therapy, and children’s programming, and for teaching CPR, water safety, junior lifeguards, and swimming.
The Council in January instructed the Parks and Recreation Commision to consider a new aquatics center which would include both a 35-meter competition-level pool and a 25-meter shallow pool. The RFP will seek costs for both, as well as explore a different location, near the city yard. This does not mean the Council is ready to appropriate the funds. City staff indicated the new aquatics center built in El Segundo carried an $11 million price tag, and both the complexities of the Begg site and increasing construction costs since the El Segundo facility was built could vastly increase costs.
Councilperson Richard Montgomery said he read the survey results as decidedly lukewarm, noting that over 25 percent of residents said they were not interested in a new aquatics center and another 20 percent expressed only mild interest.
“You’re already fighting 45 percent of the residents,” he said. “So that kind of jumped out, right off the bat. It’s not like a library, a much different concept, or the skatepark.”
Montgomery said he wasn’t against the pool, but cautious about financially committing to it when the City had other priorities it had already committed to, such as new police hires and the new Scout House Community Center.
“It’s on my wish list, not my needs list,” he said. “If everything goes right, no recession, no bumps, we find money to pay for our police and we get money out of the private sector to pay for the Scout House…. And then we look at the pool option.”
Councilperson Amy Howorth said she saw the numbers more positively.
“You put the very interested with the somewhat interested so that gets you to 55 percent…so I see it a little differently,” she said. “But I do understand the caution around finances. I’m just saying I see that differently. Begg is an 82 year old pool….We are going to be putting hundreds of thousands of dollars [for maintenance] into that pool over the next five years anyway.”
Howorth made the motion to go out for an RFP.
“We may have to hold off on it for a couple of years if there’s a recession, but we have to have that information,” she said. “We have to have what is possible, and we have to start. We are a coastal community that prides ourselves not just on athletic ability, but athletic accomplishment, and Olympians. We tout our athletic bonafides all the time, and we have a lot of kids and we have a lot of people who need this pool.”
Councilperson David Lesser seconded the motion.
“The facts are we have this 82-year-old pool that is heavily utilized and to the extent we don’t plan for a succession, we’re just going to continue to expand ever-increasing funds that could be better spent on planning for its replacement rather than on just maintenance,” Lesser said.
The survey results indicated 70.9 percent of respondents favored paying for a new facility with increased user fees, while 58.1 percent opposed a $140 increase in property tax to fund the pool, and 61.2 percent opposed a half cent sales tax increase.
Councilperson Joe Franklin said Begg Pool had been a big part of his family’s life, but suggested reducing the scope of the project just to recreate what is already there — a smaller pool intended mainly for children. He said the community support does not appear to be present for a parcel or sales tax to pay for a full-fledged aquatics center.
“Rebuild what it is,” he said. “It’s to introduce younger children to the joys of swimming and the safety of swimming. Then they can go off and do very well at Costa, where it is set up for tournaments, and go to the ocean swimming and be a surfer and Junior Guard and all that sort of stuff.”
The motion to seek an RFP passed 5-0. ER