Council looks to pool its resources

CITY HALL — Parks officials on Tuesday presented four options for replacing swimming pools at Verdugo and McCambridge parks totaling some $16 million as the City Council explores an expanded aquatics season.

Options for Verdugo range from $7.33 million to $6.1 million, with an additional $3.7-million option to permanently or temporarily enclose a portion of the facility. Option A calls for a 50-meter swimming pool, 2,800-square-foot activity pool and complete remodel of the existing bathhouse building. Option B includes a 25-meter lap pool and 3,300-square-foot activity pool, said Nachi Madhavan, of Jones & Madhavan Architecture Engineering.

“The main difference is you are losing the long course,” Madhavan said. “What you’re losing is the ability for an outside group, like a master’s swim group, which the city doesn’t have right now.”

Both sketches of the facility options included a series of water slides.

All five council members expressed early support for the larger pool at Verdugo.

Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department officials and project consultants hosted a slew of public meetings to gather input on the options, which include new components to accommodate both recreational and competitive uses in addition to the restoration, Madhavan said.

Both options at McCambridge would set the city back $8.54 million, with an option for a $3.22-million enclosure. In both cases, the lap pool is 25 yards by 60 feet, and the activity pool features misting machines and a beach-like entrance ramp.

Originally constructed in 1948, the swimming pool at Verdugo was closed last year after excessive damage caused water losses of 12,000 gallons per day from unidentified sources.

The 54-year-old facility at McCambridge sustained less cracking, but still cost the city $219,019 to repair after a magnitude 3.5 earthquake hit in August, said Marisa Garcia, deputy director of recreation services for the city’s Park, Recreation and Community Services Department.

“That’s kind of an ace bandage,” she said. “It gives us five to seven years.”

The winter off-season afforded city executives and consultants the time to conduct three site visits. It was then that they found 16 problem areas at Verdugo, ranging from major water losses to the chlorine and acid being stored six feet apart instead of the required 20.

City executives found 18 problem areas at McCambridge, including the cracked pool deck surface with tattered coating and an inadequate number of restroom facilities. Locker room and shower facilities at both pools were also found to be in need of a major overhaul, according to the report.

The city is home to six aquatic facilities, including pools at McCambridge, Verdugo, the Burbank Community YMCA, Woodbury University, and Burroughs and Burbank high schools.

The closure of Verdugo eliminates 134 Learn-to-Swim classes, Guard Start and Swim Team, and affects more than 1,300 children enrolled in the programs. But the impact is expected to be tempered by a five-year agreement reached last month between the Burbank Unified School District and the City Council in which the city agreed to pay a daily fee of $386 to cover operating costs at the two school facilities.

While lap swimming this season will continue through Sept. 6 with a possible extension, resident Bob Schmitt has been lobbying for a year-round season since 1991. Lately he’s traveled throughout the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles and Pasadena to use pools, he said.

“This stuff is being done in the dark,” he said before the meeting. “There has been no single input from a member of the public from last fall to now. You don’t have anybody here because nobody knows what you are talking about.”

On his website, www.teamburbank.com, Schmitt has tracked responses from the city as well as new developments in its aquatics plan. Jennifer Polzin, also a Burbank swimmer, said that while she’s upset about fee increases and program shifts, she is most concerned by what she called a lack of effort by the city to get information out to the public.

The City Council on Tuesday directed parks officials to survey swimmers for their opinions on the new plans.

“How are they getting the word out to determine the aquatic needs of the people of Burbank?” Polzin asked.


 CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at christopher.cadelago@ latimes.com.

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