Pinky Kushner: Here is what I’m sick about…


Sometimes, it’s important to take positions on little items as well as big ones.  This week at City Hall, the Ukiah City Council voted 3-1 (with one absence) to go forward with a plan to re-configure the municipal pools at Todd Grove Park (see UDJ article below).   The decision was regrettable and needs to be reversed for three primary reasons:

It is fiscally irresponsible for the City, because the re-configuration, although partially funded by a State grant, will cost the City $450,000, which it does not have.

It is a decision that was not made democratically since it was made during winter months and was not posted on the pool itself and did not involve people who use the municipal pools regularly.

It is an unreasonable use of State money for recreational facilities because the re-configuration reduces the available pool area by nearly 50%, thus reducing recreational access not enhancing it.

The agenda item can be found on the City’s website at

A letter that I sent prior to last night’s meeting is copied below.   I plan to appeal this decision in any way that I can.   How can I fight for the earth and ignore my own backyard?

April 5, 2010

City Council Members
City of Ukiah
Ukiah, CA

Subject: Item 10 g—The Fate of the City’s Municipal Pools

Greetings Council Persons:

I ask that you reject Staff’s recommendation of Scenario #2.   That scenario will mean the small pool will be eliminated and be replaced by an even smaller ‘therapy’ pool that will not serve the functions of the present small pool.  I will begin this letter with a discussion of the arguments in favor of eliminating existing small pool presented by Staff to Council last week.   I will then proceed to a discussion of the Staff report for the Council’s decision this week.

I. The arguments in favor of eliminating existing small pool as presented by Staff to Council last week:

The small pool leaks, the lights don’t work, it’s too deep for children’s classes, and it’s claimed that it is sinking into the ground.   Staff also says that should the pools be up-graded, the pool house must be rebuilt according to a County policy on the numbers of toilets per water surface area and that this will add to the cost of the project prohibitively.

Counter arguments to keep the small pool:

1. As for leaking, all pools leak, even newer ones.  Fixing leaks is part of pool maintenance.   All pools need to get their pipes and filtration systems renewed every 50 years!   They do not need to be removed because they need maintenance.

2. The pool does not need lights.   It is a summer use facility and is used during natural daylight hours.

3. Staff says the little pool is too deep for children’s lessons, but it is just the right depth for the older population.   A pool that is only 42 inches deep is much more difficult for an older person to get in and out of—too much of their weight is out of the water in getting to the edge of the pool.

4. As for sinking, it would be good to hear the opinion of a geological expert.  It is probably sinking because the surrounding land has not been maintained and is eroding.  The leaves are never left in place to become mulch.  The grass clippings are also probably removed completely with every grass cutting.   Top-soil additions are probably never made to the park’s lawn.  Fifty years of that will cause erosion, but can that erosion be stopped with reasonable changes in lawn maintenance?

5. The County requirement for more toilets in the pool house can most likely be delayed.  Staff should inquire whether this is a firm requirement or a soft one.   The City could explain to the County that the City will require meet organizers to bring in porto-potties when there is a swim meet, the way they do for any other large gathering at Todd Grove Park. The City could tell the County they will do a new building in the future when more money is located.  The City should also tell the County that the pool is not an all day affair for most people—the pool complex is used by swimmers for an hour or two at the most.   People arrive at the pool in their swimsuits; they leave in their suits.   In their relatively short visit time, they rarely need to use a toilet.   In 9 summers, I have NEVER seen a line-up for a toilet in the women’s changing area (and I cannot imagine a line in the men’s area).

II. A discussion of the Staff report for the Council’s decision this week.

  1. Staff report says that the small pool is not deep enough for sanctioned meets.   Yet the Staff report says that pool depth must be “over four feet”, and the small pool is 4 1/2 ft.

Question: If the depth is OK, why remove the small pool?

  1. Staff report says that pool needs to be entirely reconstructed.   Yet an email from Staff says that the leaking problem is not nearly as dire as the consultants said it was.

Question: Is there a leaking problem?   If not, what’s the problem? If the small pool is not leaking badly, why not repair cracks as an annual maintenance item?

  1. Staff report says the warranty on the large pool will expire in the next year.

Question: Is there any physical indication that the liner is failing?  What is the matter if the warranty is run out, if there are no signs of liner failure?

  1. Staff report says that Scenario #1 does not include improvements to large pool’s filtration and pump system.

Question: What is the cost for these improvements to large pool?   Can they be added to Scenario #1?

  1. Staff report says that $180,000 is the cost for ADA and electrical code compliance issues for the pool house.

Question: What makes ADA alterations and electrical changes cost $180,000?   Is there any way to reduce this cost?

Summary Comments:

The new proposed small pool will be too shallow and too small for the senior exercise class.   It is just not an adequate replacement for the existing small pool.   I am a swimmer.   I love water.   Last summer I started taking this senior exercise class in the early morning in the little pool.   There are several obese older people, who come to this class, for whom a shallow pool will be a hazard.  The class varies in number of participants, from 20 to 40.   A smaller version of the little pool will NOT be big enough.

It seems ironic that the City will get State funds to redo this facility, but in so doing will reduce by 50% the available swimming area.   That is not how I like to see my tax dollars at work.

Please choose Scenario #1, with modifications.  This scenario is the economically viable option.   This scenario maintains the level of swim opportunity that the City of Ukiah has had since 1968.   The population of the City and its surrounds has grown since 1968 and will continue to grow.

Relative to the State’s time line, Council Members can request Staff to confirm to the State that the money for the pool re-build will be used in the allotted time frame and that the exact budget will be forwarded to the State promptly in the coming months.

Finally, I find it regrettable that this decision is being made during non-pool use months, when the users of the pools are not aware of the proposed reduction in available swim area.   There may have been very few members of the public present when this issue was brought to the Ukiah Municipal Pool Stakeholders.  Pool users deserve to hear about a proposal that will significantly reduce pool area prior to such a decision.


Pinky Kushner

City pools’ future discussed

By TIFFANY REVELLE The Daily Journal

Ukiah officials asked for feedback from the City Council last week about plans to re-vamp the city pools.

“Every year we gear up to have an aquatics program, and here again this year we’re kind of asking ourselves, is that what we’re going to do,” City Manager Jane Chambers said to kick off the informal discussion Wednesday during a council workshop.

Community Services Supervisor Katie Merz said the city was operating under the assumption that the aquatics program would go on this summer as usual, and consultants were keeping the city abreast of the condition of the pools.

“We have grant funds available for a full renovation of the site, and through that process we’ve learned a lot about what’s going on with the pools, what the existing structure is, what’s underground,” Merz said.

Cracks forming in the smaller of the city’s two pools have been patched as needed, but the overall picture is that it’s cracking and “sinking,” according to Merz.

City Project Manager and Grant Administrator Guy Mills told the council there is $773,000 available for the needed renovation. He said the cheapest route would be to renovate the small lap pool, but the money available is still about $171,000 short.

The preferred option was to fill in the city’s small lap pool and divide the bigger pool into two: one about the same size as the current lap pool and a smaller, shallow therapy pool.

The option would mean new plumbing, filtration, decking and plaster among other things, and would cut the city’s total pool surface area by 46 percent. The reduction would also mean lower operation cost for staffing and utilities. Mills said the changes could be done in phases, costing up to $1.5 million.

A $500,000 state grant the city has for the renovations expires at the end of 2011, according to Mills.

“The renovation of the small pool would pretty much gobble up all of our money,” Mills said, adding that because of environmental health requirements, it would also trigger renovation of the large pool.

Merz added even with the renovation of the small pool, there still remained a possibility that the large one would fail in the future.

Councilwoman Mari Rodin said she wanted to see the small lap pool filled in, because she wanted more landscaped area to make the pool grounds more attractive for families.

Councilman Phil Baldwin asked why the city should cut its pool space in the face of a possible population increase of 10,000 to 20,000 more people in and around the city in the next 25 years.

There was some disagreement about that expected growth rate. Rodin said the city usually has less than 1 percent of annual growth.

Baldwin said “allowable buildout” could conceivably double the city’s population.

Merz acknowledged the need for a long-term aquatic facility management plan.

Assistant City Manager Sage Sangiacomo said the area where the lap pool exists, once filled in, could again be used for pool space if necessary in the future.

“Does the community want something more or something larger? Maybe, but right now it’s about what we can afford and what we can afford to maintain, and what is our best option to utilize this grant money,” Sangiacomo said. “Because once you start talking pools, you’re talking millions and millions of dollars.”

The council discussed filling in the cracks again this year to keep the lap pool open this summer, as opposed to leaving it empty. Merz said the city doesn’t yet have state approval to proceed either way. Sangiacomo said any construction likely wouldn’t begin until January 2011.

Tiffany Revelle can be reached at, or at 468-3523.