OCEANSIDE — Despite having funding means and strong community support, the planned city aquatic center did not receive approval for building funds on Aug. 23.
The City Council chambers were packed with supporters for the aquatic center, which has seen its way through plans and design.
Speakers said there is a need for an aquatic center with a competition-length pool to replace the dated smaller facility the city operates. They noted the city’s population growth since the current pool was built in the 1950s, and the burden to drive elsewhere to use a suitable facility. Speakers also touted the recreational and competitive sports benefits an aquatic center would provide.
“There’s not really a better spot, place and time,” Scott Wagner, an Oceanside resident, teacher and coach, said.
Others mentioned the lengthy process of five City Council meetings to get to Wednesday’s request.
“I’ve been up here many, many times,” Tony Davis, an Oceanside resident, said. “I feel we’re very close. It’s been 50 years, now’s the time to get a pool in there.”
City Council’s 2-2 vote failed to allow the issuance of new Lease Revenue Bonds to fund the aquatic center, beach amphitheater restrooms and pay down PERs costs. Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery and Councilman Jerry Kern voted no. Mayor Jim Wood was absent.
A motion to use some of $15 million in available net bond proceeds to pay for beach restrooms and PERs costs also failed. Councilman Jack Feller and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no.
Kern said he has questions on how the city would pay aquatic center operating expenses that he estimated at $1 million annually. He said he is interested to see if the city facility could be privately operated to cut city costs.
“Before we jump into this I really want to know the costs,” Kern said.
Feller and Sanchez voiced support for the aquatic center. Feller said a facility at El Corazon would serve both daytime senior programs and after-school youth programs. He added the cost to operate it, which was mentioned by Kern, is already known.
“I’ve already heard everything I need to go forward with this,” Feller said. “This is the centerpiece for a lot of our recreation in the right place. It’s an opportunity missed if we’re not doing it right now. We’re ready essentially to dig the hole.”
Sanchez agreed that there has been sufficient dialogue about the city project, which is a Parks and Recreation facility. She added the cost of operations would be a sound investment in youth, and the city would benefit from families attending swim meets spending money in Oceanside.
Following the vote Wagner said he was disappointed with the failure to fund the build. “It’s for the betterment of the community,” Wagner said. “It’s not going to make the city money. It will improve value, life and community.”
Kern said he supports the aquatic center and agrees there is a need for it, but he cannot move forward without knowing operating costs.
City Manager Michelle Skaggs-Lawrence said city staff would follow up on Kern’s request and provide City Council more information on operating costs.