Danville Express

Newsfront - January 26, 2007

Alamo parks committee gets input on aquatic center

Property taxes may be used for swim facility at high school

by Natalie O'Neill

More than 50 people packed into the Swain House at Hap Magee Ranch Park last week to convince the R-7A Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee that Alamo property taxes should be used to partially fund an aquatic center at San Ramon Valley High School.

The Danville Aquatic Center Steering Committee requested $300,000 over a period of five years from R-7A's anticipated $700,000 annual budget to help build a second pool and locker room facility for aquatic recreation.

The facility would be used for community aquatic recreation like swim teams and water aerobics, along with high school water sports and club water polo teams for Danville and Alamo residents. The R-7A budget is largely used for recreation programs and park maintenance in Alamo.

At a previous meeting, R-7A committee members voiced that they were not convinced Alamo taxpayers would support funding an aquatic center located in Danville. But an overwhelming turnout by residents and community officials may have convinced them otherwise.

"We said we wanted to see community support and there doesn't seem to be one person here who is not for the pool," said committee member Steve Mick.

Mick added that he had received more than 70 e-mails in support of the aquatic center since funding was proposed at a meeting in October.

Still, other R-7A members said many of the people who showed up in support of the aquatic center were not from the R-7A area.

"We want to make sure we represent everybody in the R-7A area," said committee member Marie-Jeanne Parsons.

Danville officials and recreation staff members, however, supported funding for the aquatic center, stating it would be an asset for both Alamo and Danville.

Danville Councilman Newell Arnerich said that he feels strongly that there is need for an aquatic center at the high school.

"It's not just for Danville, it's for the whole valley," he said, prompting the room to erupt in applause.

Recreation planners agreed the facility would unite the community and provide recreational use for residents of all ages.

"You have my whole-hearted support," said Kathy Chiverton, executive director of the Mt. Diablo Region YMCA.

Residents who advocated funding the pool piled in during the meeting, one after another, to state personal reasons why the center would benefit Alamo.

One Alamo mother said she had to wait in line at 4:30 a.m. to get her child on a recreational swim team. Another resident said the pool would add to the desirability of the area and others said that it would keep Alamo from becoming a "private-club-only community."

Sam Finlayson, who plays water polo and is a senior at San Ramon Valley High School, detailed why the tiny shallow pool can't facilitate the school, let alone the community.

"We sometimes have practice until 10 p.m. and then start again at 5 a.m.," he said. "I was a sickly kid and swimming taught me so much about life. It's important to me to see other kids grow that way."

Other residents pointed out the pool was built in the 1950s, when the population of Alamo and Danville together was less than 6,000.

"That little old pool just doesn't fit in," one Alamo woman said.

"We still have this tiny antiquated pool and it is way over subscribed," said Grant Finlayson of the Danville Aquatic Center Steering Committee.

To date the Steering Committee has raised $1.4 million for the project but will need to raise $2.4 million in total. The Town of Danville has committed $750,000 and independent contributors have donated $630,000, including $100,000 from Round Hill Swim Club.

Committee members asked questions about the number of Alamo residents who attend San Ramon Valley High School, how much current open swim time is available at Monte Vista High School and San Ramon Valley High School, along with possible names for the center.

Committee member Tom Matthews said 19 percent of the San Ramon Valley High students are Alamo residents. Town officials responded that open swim time for the community is very limited.

When contacted after the meeting, R-7A members said they couldn't comment yet on if they have room in their budget for partially funding the center.

The R-7A committee will vote on the item at the next meeting, which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 21.

E-mail Natalie O'Neill at noneill@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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