Assembly will consider making Juneau pools board permanent

Students from Juneau-Douglas High School use the pool for an athletics program on May 3, 2017.

Students from Juneau-Douglas High School use the pool for an athletics program on May 3, 2017. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

The civic board tasked with governing Juneau’s municipal pools may not dissolve in July as planned.

Voters created the Aquatics Board in 2014 through a ballot proposition following concerns over a proposal to close the downtown pool. The board’s charter was originally set to expire in May 2018, but the Juneau Assembly voted last year to extend it for another year. Now it may become permanent.

The board’s power has been a point of conflict from the start. Although it was originally envisioned as an empowered board with the ability to hire and fire its own CEO, the Assembly left the Parks and Recreation director in charge instead.

At Monday’s meeting of the Assembly Human Resources Committee, City Manager Rorie Watt said he said he thinks this proposal will finally bring peace to the issue.

“I think it’s fair to say that the board would have preferred to become an empowered board. I think it’s also fair to say that, in my opinion, the scope and duties of the aquatics program doesn’t match up well with an empowered board. Slowly the board came around to accept that view,” Watt said.

Watt said he believes many of the concerns that led to the creation of the board have been resolved and that the pools are being run better today.

“The criticisms that were levied against the program some years ago, about not being responsive enough to users and not being efficient enough in tracking costs and revenue collections, I think they were fair,” he said.

Under the proposal, the seven-member board would add two seats: one for the Juneau School District and another for Glacier Swim Club. The Parks and Recreation director will also have a non-voting seat on the board.

The board will still be able to propose regulations and fees for pool facility use and review annual operating and capital budgets.

After the meeting, Parks and Recreation Director George Schaaf said the board plays an important role in helping the city run its pools.

“The voters voted to establish an Aquatics Board, and what we want to do as staff is make sure that we’re representing the public interest in how the pools are operated and run, and boards are a great way to do that,” Schaaf said.

The Assembly will hold a public hearing on the proposal before voting on it at the next Assembly meeting.

It will also consider a proposal involving changes to the Treadwell Arena Advisory Board‘s mission.

Editor’s Note: George Schaaf sits on KTOO’s Board of Directors.

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