Bellevue’s five city pools, already in need of repair, probably will take another hit starting next summer.
Budget cuts are likely to force the city to close a pool in each of the next two years.
City Administrator Dan Berlowitz said no decision has been made about which pool or pools to close next summer.
But he said the city will probably close one pool all summer rather than rotate closings among the pools.
A City Council member has suggested closing Jerry Gilbert pool, which had the fewest users in 2012.
The pool season and pool hours will be shortened, Berlowitz said.
The council approved a package of budget reductions and property tax increases in order to address a $5 million shortfall this year.
Bellevue’s swimming pools will be an expensive problem for the city. Four have significant leak problems, and no pool complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Bellevue commissioned an aquatics study this year.
The conclusion was that the city needs to make major changes to the pools, and two options were suggested. The city could renovate the pools at a cost of $2.2 million. Or it could reconfigure the aquatic program to include two new recreational swimming pools and three spray grounds, costing at least $4 million.
Berlowitz said the city probably will eventually move toward building an aquatic center. But there is no money in place to do so, and the city is not likely to make major changes in 2014.
Bellevue had to make significant spending cuts when it passed the budget in September. As part of the cuts, Berlowitz originally suggested closing the five pools on a rotating basis.
Then-Council President Don Preister drafted changes to the budget, but he kept the pool spending cuts. The council passed Preister’s budget but did not publicly address any pool closings.
Now city officials have to decide how to implement that cut.
Preister said in an interview that it’s up to city staff, not the council, to make the decision.
“We just appropriate money,” he said.
But in a September email to several staff and council members, Preister suggested closing the city’s southernmost pool, Jerry Gilbert, all summer.
Preister said in the email that it didn’t make sense to close each pool one day a week, because the city still would have to pay for water, chemicals and other routine costs at each pool.
“It seems less confusing and more efficient to not open Gilbert at all and keep the other pools open every day,” Preister wrote.
The council approved the final budget about a week after he sent the email.
Councilman Paul Cook said Preister’s email led him to believe that the Gilbert closing was part of the budget. The council voted 4-1 for the budget, with Cook dissenting.
“This (pool) recommendation was not presented to the public in an appropriate format to allow for discussion, feedback or input by the community,” Cook said. “This was a major reason for my vote against the budget.”
Gilbert pool, at 29th Avenue and Jackson Street, is in Ward 1. During budget discussions and the vote, the Ward 1 council seat was vacant.
The ward’s new representative, Steve Carmichael, said he had not heard of a proposal to close Gilbert pool. He said he was under the impression that the city would rotate the pool closings.
“I thought that was fair for all the residents of the city,” he said. “Everybody took a little hit, but nobody took a huge hit.
“I’m a little concerned,” he added.