Assembly approves pool advisory board

Posted: Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Assembly decided by a narrow margin earlier this week to create an aquatics facilities advisory board for the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool and the Dimond Park Aquatic Center, which is under construction.

The 5-4 vote calls for seven Assembly-appointed members from the school district, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and the general public to work with Aquatics Manager Karin Richard-Jacobi and report to the Assembly, first through work sessions and then through the human resources committee.

The idea of an empowered or strong advisory aquatics board was originally brought to the Assembly by local residents involved with the Dimond Park Aquatic Center. They said a strong board could lead to greater efficiencies, cost savings and marketing ability for Juneau's pools.

City Manager Rod Swope told the Assembly in a memo the idea of an empowered board, like at Eaglecrest, wasn't appropriate or necessary.

An advisory board, he said, could be effective in promoting the use of a facility, giving recommendations and public information, looking for funding and volunteering, but he believes the city already has too many.

"Managing all of our advisory boards and commissions has become a full-time job for the Deputy Clerk," he said. "We constantly have problems filling vacancies, establishing quorums for meetings, determining meeting locations, clarifying authorities, providing training to ensure that meetings are run correctly and ensuring compliance with public notice requirements."

Several members of the public spoke against the idea of an advisory board at Monday's meeting.

Juneau resident Eileen Casey said she has multiple sclerosis and has been trying for years through various committees to get a time slot for Juneau's disabled to swim in the heated pool, with no success until she spoke to aquatics manager Richard-Jacobi, who took the job at the beginning of the year. Richard-Jacobi took action in only a week, she said.

Some members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, which discussed the issue earlier this year and voted against it, spoke against having a board, as well.

"Marc (Matsil, Director of Parks and Recreation) is great, and Karin deserves a chance to demonstrate her expertise," said PRAC member Dixie Hood. "This decision is very intrusive and inappropriate. There is no demonstrated need whatsoever."

Assembly member Jeff Bush said it was his impression that many of those speaking against the resolution were speaking against it prior to revisions at the work session.

"What it (the resolution) does is creates an effective mechanism for interested members of the public - diverse interested members of the public - to provide input and advice ... into the operations of the pool, but it does not in any way take over the operations or administration of the pool," he said. "That is left to the city manager and staff."

Bush also pointed out that the way a board gets diverse members is through diverse applicants, and encouraged those testifying to apply.

Assembly member Johan Dybdahl said he has been consistently against the idea.

"We do not need it," he said. "It's premature and I think that we have good management in place. The project (Dimond Park Aquatic Center) is not even completed and we're trying to fix a problem that we don't have."

Assembly members Bush, Ruth Danner, Merrill Sanford, David Stone and Randy Wanamaker voted for the creation of the board. Assembly members Bob Doll, Dybdahl, Jonathan Anderson and Mayor Bruce Botelho voted against it.

The resolution provides for the board's existence for three years.

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