Council continues CARE program, adds supportive housing, and makes changes to budget and staffing.
On February 21, City Council voted to fund a new City Aquatic Center for the west end of Jean Sweeney Park. The Center will include competitive and recreational pools, an associated building with locker rooms, office space and community room, and an associated parking lot. The project will also include a community garden, the Alameda Free Library Tool Lending Library, moving the southern fence to the new City property line, and performing site grading and infrastructure installation for the remainder of the park. The remainder will include a tree-filled open space, landscaping, decomposed granite trails for walkers, and a bike skills loop. These smaller components will be installed later, with the landscape installed by volunteers and contractors over time.
The project is conservatively estimated to cost up to $30 million. The Council voted to fund half from the City’s general fund and the remainder from Certificates of Participation, a long-term financing technique secured by lease revenues and not requiring voter approval. They chose this form of financing over a General Obligation Bond, which would have offered a lower interest rate but required 2/3 voter approval and a much-delayed project start date.
The new Aquatic Center will allow for year-round and full-day programming of swim lessons, rentals, lap swimming, camps, classes, and other programs with a cost recovery potential of 80% and possibly more. Assistant City Manager—the former Recreation and Parks Department Director—Amy Wooldridge said the Center would create adequate pool space to serve all youth who want to participate in community aquatic teams. Currently, not all youth who want to participate in a team can do so.
Council discussion and vote
Vice Mayor Tony Daysog said, “Now is the time to do this,” adding that the project would not only add a needed municipal pool but would make Jean Sweeney Park a public gathering space. Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft agreed. “We are overdue building a city pool,” she said, adding that this project “has something for everyone.” Council Member Trish Herrera-Spencer said that every community should have an aquatic center, and this one will satisfy a growing need.
Councilmember Malia Vella expressed concern about long-term funding for staffing and upkeep, and what it means for the City’s use of Emma Hood and Encinal pools. She questioned how the pools would work together and be financially supported, noting that “large portions of the island are impacted by deferred maintenance, especially related to sea level rise.”
Vice Mayor Daysog’s motion to fund the Aquatic Center project from the general fund and Certificates of Participation passed with four yes votes; Councilmember Vella abstained. Staff will now proceed with securing financing and return with design possibilities for Council consideration. Council expects to consider the pros and cons of a 30-meter competition pool versus a 50-meter pool.
Other Council actions
In other business, Council voted to:
- Transition the Community Assessment Response and Engagement (CARE) Team from a pilot to an ongoing program. The CARE Team is Alameda Fire Department personnel providing mental health emergency services. The Team consists of licensed Paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) professionals trained in de-escalation and behavioral health. Working with Alameda Family Services, the Team triages and assesses clients to help them navigate the best path to needed services. The Team proved effective during a 12-month pilot, responding to 1,146 service requests and providing an alternative to police department involvement. Council unanimously voted to allocate general funding for the program and seek additional local, state, and federal resources.
- Amend the agreement with the Village of Love Foundation to provide services in a fourth emergency supportive housing unit at 2845 Pearl Harbor Rd. This fourth emergency housing unit will house up to six individuals, with priority given to Alameda older adults and the medically fragile. Cerda-Zein Real Estate will prepare and maintain the four units, all located at Alameda Point.
- Amend the fiscal year budget and approve workforce changes. Staff proposed adjusting the City budget to reflect projected increases to General Fund revenue from property, utility, and transient occupancy taxes, and other ongoing sources and one-time funds, such as from the American Rescue Plan Act. Staff also proposed adjusting the expenditure budget to include additional operating expenses, capital transfers, and post-employment pension and benefit expenses. Workforce changes include adding or altering eight positions across the City Attorney, Community Development, Public Works, and Planning, Building, and Transportation Departments. Staff projected a General Fund surplus (revenues above expenditures) of approximately $2.1 million by the end of the fiscal year.
Contributing writer Karin K. Jensen covers boards and commissions for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at https://linktr.ee/karinkjensen and https://alamedapost.com/Karin-K-Jensen.