Empowered pool board may answer to Parks and Rec.

City could appoint one of their own for aquatics manager instead of empowered board hire
Kirk Duncan is the director of the city's Parks & Recreation department.

Although the Assembly agreed to the voter-approved empowered pool board earlier this month, the decision may see compromise. At a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, Assemblyman Loren Jones proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would place Parks and Recreation Director Kirk Duncan in the manager position overseeing the pool board.


“The amendment I’m proposing is that we still have an empowered board. The board is still responsible for setting the budget and trying to operate the pools in the most effective manner … but it defines that the person that reports to them instead of them hiring an aquatics facilities manager, that person will be the director of Parks and Rec,” Jones said.

The original ordinance specified that the new empowered board choose and hire the new aquatics director to take the place of the former aquatics manager Kathrin Millhorn and aquatics recreational superintendent Myiia Wahto, in one consolidated position.

Duncan would act as director of Parks and Rec and aquatics manager. In the initial planning for an empowered pool board, intentions had been to move away from Parks and Recreation management to an empowered board of citizens.

“I think it’s a brave new adventure,” Duncan told the Empire on Wednesday. “The obvious problem is I’ll be working for two bosses. It’s obviously not a long-term solution, but I’m certainly willing to make it work.”

He said the pools will still move forward with marketing plans he has outlined with the help of USA Pools consultants during the six-month transition to an empowered board.

Duncan maintained that a long-term solution would be to eventually keep the pools within Parks and Recreation management.

“But the community has lost confidence in us,” he said.

A compromise between the community and Parks and Recreation could restore public confidence and increase innovation on the city side, he said.

“We used to be fulfillers of demand, instead of creators of demand,” he said.

Duncan was just recently appointed as Director of Parks and Recreation in a December 2014 city department consolidation. He previously served as director of Public Works and general manager at Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Assembly members were torn over Jones’ proposed amendment on Monday.

“I think this approach really has tremendous potential,” Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl said. “I had been wracking my brain for the responsible way to try and empower a group of citizens passionate about our pools.”

Mayor Merrill Sanford had concerns with the split authority the amendment would put on the board. Duncan is first and foremost a city employee and answers to City Manager Kim Kiefer.

Although the Assembly would have been the primary overseer for the board’s budgetary decisions anyway, an aquatics manager under Kiefer’s direction could be split on decisions if the manager’s office and the empowered board disagree.

Sanford questioned from whom Duncan would then take his action orders.

Jones referenced the Eaglecrest empowered board in response. The Aquatics Board Working Group had originally used Eaglecrest as a model in forming the specifications of the pool board, set to start in July.

“A dispute is resolved here (within the Assembly) if it requires some sort of resolution,” he said. “It should get resolved through discussion and communication instead of saying, ‘In this instance, this person can ignore this person.’ I don’t think we want them to ignore each other, I think we want them to talk to each other.”

Duncan would have sat in on the empowered board as a liason in the original ordinance, but would not have had any decision-making power.

Each of the seven empowered board members would be appointed by the Assembly from resident applicants with a limit of two swim club members or pool staff. Each would serve three-year terms.

Jones suggested adding a “sunset clause” to his amendment, which would allow the Assembly to reevaluate the empowered board and its director after three years.

Assemblywoman Kate Troll was not satisfied with a “hybrid” solution to what she thought should have been a clear choice between an empowered board or city management, not both.

Assemblyman Jerry Nankervis was more direct in his opposition.

“I have not heard one single person from the public say, ‘I voted for it so you could talk about it,” he said. “I do not support the amendment.”

Nankervis said the memo with the proposed amendment shocked him and that he did not support splitting Duncan’s management between the city and the empowered board.

He said the current management structure for the pools under Parks and Recreation had not been working for some time, and they continued to ask for more time and more money to come up with solutions.

“Should we give them more money and more time? My answer to that is no,” he said.

Despite disapproval from Nankervis, Troll and Assemblywoman Debbie White, the motion passed 6 to 3. A public comment meeting on the ordinance and amendment will be held April 27.

Editor's note: In a previous version of this article, Kirk Duncan was mistakenly given the title of Director of Public Works instead of Parks & Recreation.

• Contact reporter Stephanie Shor at 523-2279 or at stephanie.shor@juneauempire.com.


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