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Encinal pools could reopen in January

Submitted by on 1, December 20, 2010 – 12:02 amNo Comment

Photo by Jack Boeger

Alameda Unified School District officials said this week that they’re hoping Encinal Swim Center can reopen in mid-to late January. But in order for the district to win approval for short-term fixes, county environmental health officials are demanding a long-range plan for bringing the pools up to date with existing codes – or a plan to shut them down.

District officials closed both the district’s swim centers in October after learning they weren’t in compliance with state and federal laws requiring drain covers for public pools.

Encinal’s pools will need an estimated $20,000 worth of work in order to win the county’s approval to reopen them, Alameda Unified’s chief business officer, Robert Shemwell, told The Island last week. He said the district will be working with the city, which also uses and manages the pools, to pay that tab.

County officials are also demanding a long-range plan for bringing the pools up to code. “The responsible party, either the school district or city parks, must provide the department with its long range plan for the pool complex. This plan shall identify the intent to either bring the complex up to existing codes or to close the pools, and included in the plan shall be a timeline with major decision points,” county environmental health officials wrote in a letter they sent to the district on Wednesday.

District officials submitted proposed repairs for the Encinal pools on November 4, but the county environmental health official responsible for overseeing the pools’ safety wrote back on December 7 demanding additional fixes that Shemwell said would have been much more costly and taken longer to make.

“Basically what we’re doing is turning all three of those pools into one by cutting off the valve,” Shemwell said.

He said district officials hammered out a deal with the county on December 9, though the additional conditions were included in Wednesday’s letter.

The district hired a consultant to create a long-range plan for fixing the pools, and officials are awaiting the report, Shemwell wrote in an update released Thursday night. The report is slated include plans for ongoing maintenance, capital improvements and cost estimates for bringing both the district’s swim centers up to code, Shemwell wrote.

District officials closed the Encinal and Emma Hood swim centers on October 15 when they learned from the city officials who have maintained them that they were out of compliance with state and federal laws requiring pool drains to have covers – and that they could face millions of dollars in fines as a result. The abrupt closures and the disruption they caused generated an uproar in the Island’s swim community.

The Emma Hood Swim Center reopened on November 2, but district officials said then that Encinal’s pools would need more work. They hoped at that time to be able to reopen those pools around Thanksgiving.

District officials are working with the city to draft a more formal agreement for city management of the pools, though some swimmers have said they’d prefer to see an outside entity manage them.

More information on the closures and efforts to reopen the pools is available on the district’s website.

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