Closing Yost Pool unpopular, but necessary

  • By Gary Haakenson
  • Tuesday, April 14, 2009 7:03pm

While I am flattered by all the attention sent my way in the form of e-mails, letters to the editor and the Enterprise editorial regarding the potential closure of Yost Pool for the summer of 2009, I know I wasn’t elected to three terms as mayor to make popular decisions. The people of Edmonds elected me to make the hard decisions and to keep the city operating.

I have been called many names over the past couple of weeks. The e-mails have been nasty. The letters to the editor show a passion for Yost Pool but a lack of understanding of our financial crisis. A recent Enterprise Newspaper editorial calls the pool “a basic city service.” I’m glad the editorial board doesn’t manage the city!

In 2008, Yost Pool cost $238,000 to operate for four months. Revenues taken in at the pool totaled $123,000. Do the math and the pool lost $115,000 for Edmonds taxpayers in 2008. The bottom line was similar in 2006 and 2007.

In order to keep the city afloat in a time when our sales tax revenues have dropped by millions, we can’t afford to lose over $100,000. So along with other budget reductions, I made the very difficult decision to close Yost this year.

I heard the members of the public who spoke at a recent council meeting extolling the virtues of the pool. I agree 100 percent with the speakers. Yost provides a wonderful service to our community. I also heard an overwhelming offer of support from the speakers, even offering their children’s inheritance in one case.

I also heard many cost-cutting measures offered up to pay for the pool. We have already studied or are acting on just about every one mentioned, including parking meters. I also read a suggestion that we “simply cut the mayor’s position” and use that money for Yost Pool. Frankly, I’m all for it! When can that take effect?

I met with a representative of the “Save Yost Pool” committee and agreed to raise the fees at Yost (to the highest in the region) and gave them the date of April 14 as the last date that we could use to open the pool by its regularly scheduled date. City staff worked with the group to do some rescheduling to save some payroll costs as well. With those changes, there is still a deficit of many thousands of dollars.

The group offered to raise donations. I know they are working hard at that task as I write this. Soon after April 14, I will make a presentation to the council asking them to approve the new fee schedule, telling them about the schedule changes, and sharing with them the fundraising total. I will ask them to make a policy decision about the operation of Yost Pool. Do they want it to continue to operate at a deficit?

There is a possibility that the pool could open later than normal this year to save some expenses and allow more time for fundraising. But along with that comes a parallel loss in revenue. Like all our day-to-day city operations, the line between revenue and expense is a thin one.

The bottom line, folks, is that the Yost Pool saga is only chapter one in our financial story. There will be more chapters to come. We need additional revenue to continue to provide desired services to the community.

Gary Haakenson is mayor of Edmonds.

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