Mitchell Stern practically lived at Yost Pool last summer after he sold his long-time dental practice in Meadowdale.
He swam six days a week, sometimes more than once a day, in the city’s aging, now-endangered outdoor pool.
This spring, Stern is helping fight for the pool’s future.
Mayor Gary Haakenson said last month that Yost Pool will not open this summer for its annual four-month season, as the city wrestles with a deepening financial crisis. Officials are planning to ask city voters for a multi-million dollar levy in November.
In the meantime, expenses must be curtailed, said Haakenson, who now is negotiating concessions from the city’s labor unions in order to save the budget.
At first, Yost’s closure wasn’t a discussion — it was an announcement from Haakenson that caught even city council members off guard.
Last winter, after months of wrangling over the pool’s future, officials announced the pool was safe for 2009 and 2010. Suddenly, though, it wasn’t. The move would save the city between $80,000 and $120,000, Haakenson said.
The mayor is trying to close a retail sales tax shortfall of $1 million for 2009. The city’s general fund budget is $34 million.
Stern was shocked about Yost’s closure. He had just seen “The Last Samurai”, a Tom Cruise movie about ancient Japanese warfare. “I said, ‘I’m going to fight this to the last man,’” Stern said.
“This is really about the kids and the families of Edmonds — the second generation of people going through that pool,” he said.
Stern joined a cadre of impromptu Yost Pool activists, and watched happily as a legion of over 730 Facebook allies gathered around the pool.
The group started raising awareness and crunching numbers.
Last summer the pool earned money from fees collected on 735 swim lessons and from 195 swim team members and thousands of people swimming just for a day. That raised about $33,280.
Another $40,000 could be raised if Edmonds charged higher fees, on par with Mountlake Terrace, said resident Scott Hopper, a longtime banker. Donations could raise more. The group already has come up with more than $8,000.
If the pool isn’t opened, the donations will be returned.
Haakenson gave the group until April 14 to convince him, and the council, that their plan can work.
“If they think they can do it, more power to them,” Haakenson said. “I just know it’s a big number that needs to be raised.”
Enterprise editor Amy Daybert contributed to this report. Chris Fyall writes for the Herald of Everett.