Aquatic facilities board to take public comments on closing Augustus Brown pool

Augustus Brown Swimming Pool is adjacent to Juneau-Douglas High School on Glacier Avenue in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Augustus Brown Swimming Pool is adjacent to Juneau-Douglas High School on Glacier Avenue in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The Juneau Aquatic Facilities Advisory Board wants to hear from the public on a proposal to close the downtown Augustus Brown Swimming Pool for a year, possibly two.

City Manager Kim Kiefer says it could save the city $775,000 over the next two years and would be a good time to assess pool renovation costs.

The aquatic facilities board is a citizen advisory group to the city. Members have already said closing the pool is not the right approach to the city deficit.  They recommend the city work with a citizen group to find ways to reduce costs, increase pool revenue, and identify funding sources for deferred maintenance at the pool.

The board is holding a meeting Tuesday to take public comments. Board chairman Bob Storer says the group also has asked the city assembly for copies of mail received on the proposed pool closure.

Glacier Swim Club is one of the largest users of the pool.  Swim club board member Max Mertz says the Juneau swimming community has grown significantly since the Dimond Park Aquatic Center opened in 2011 in the Mendenhall Valley.

“We now operate, for example, a 50-person master’s program, Glacier Swim Club does, that didn’t exist before Dimond Park,” he says. “Glacier Swim Club has approximately 250 total members. Before the opening of Dimond Park we were around 120 or 130, so we’ve just about doubled in size.”

Mertz says closing Augustus Brown pool would create scheduling problems at Dimond Park and limit access to the pool.

In a three-page letter to the assembly, Glacier Swim Club offers nine recommendations to save money, including staff reductions at both pools, covering the pools for heat loss when the facilities are closed, and increased user fees.

Mertz believes both pools as well as other city recreational facilities could operate more efficiently.

“A decision to close Augustus Brown is hasty and it doesn’t answer a more important underlying question, which is how can we do these things better? What can we do to make sure our recreational facilities are top notch and operating most effectively? We need to do A — that – before we do B, which is starting to close facilities,” Mertz says.

The Juneau Community Foundation also urges the city to come up with other ways to meet the budget deficit. In December, the foundation gave the city $20,000 for climbing walls at Augustus Brown pool. That money would have to be returned if the pool closes.

The Aquatic Facilities Advisory Board will take public comment and consider options Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. in room 224 of city hall.