By DAN FOX
Skagway’s next generation of residents took to the microphone at the Feb. 16 Borough Assembly meeting. A bevy of students read letters in support of proposed Recreations Center renovations, including the addition of a pool facility.
The proposed upgrades to the facility were discussed in a presentation from the Pool Ad Hoc Committee at the previous assembly meeting; these include an expanded weight room, four-lane pool, a training pool and racquetball court, among other additions.
At the Feb. 16 meeting, fourth-grader Brooke Getz said the gym at the rec center can get too crowded, and that an expansion would allow activities like karate, arts and crafts and racquetball.
“Skagway has been yearning for a pool and a bigger rec center since before I was born,” Getz said.
The students’ arguments ran the gamut from talking about the health benefits an expansion could provide, to how a pool would reduce the amount of time students were spending on phones and video games. Several of the children also bemoaned the drive to the pool in Whitehorse.
“I’m absolutely certain that children need to learn how to swim, exercise and not need to drive two hours to get swim lessons or just have fun in the pool,” fourth-grader Kenadie Cox said.
The students were not alone in their enthusiasm for the project. Assembly Member Jay Burnham was vocal in his support of the rec center expansion.
“I think it’s time that we do the project,” Burnham said. “I think that it’s been presented over and over again to the assembly, it’s been revisited…it’s had a lot of work done to it, and I think that they’ve come up with the best solution.”
The price tag for the renovations comes in several different flavors, depending on if the city were to tackle the project all at once, or build it in phases. If the renovations and additions were done at the same time, the estimated cost would be $16,805,558. The pool committee had previously proposed a one percent sales tax increase as a funding mechanism.
Other members of the assembly supported the idea of the pool, but also warned about other financial burdens on the municipality’s horizons.
“I’m all for a pool, I would love a pool,” Assembly Member Tim Cochran said. “I just don’t know how we’re going to pay for it.”
Assembly Member Orion Hanson cautioned his fellow assembly members to remain fiscally responsible.
“What happens if the ships don’t come? What happens if there’s some sort of horrible event and there’s not tourists?” Hanson said. “I don’t think that we can put this forth before we have a plan. It’s $17 million dollars, this isn’t replacing a sidewalk.”
The discussion wrapped up with no official votes or motions by the assembly. Mayor Mark Schaefer said there were several obstacles that needed to be addressed regarding the rec center expansion.
“We’ve got to get an ordinance together to get it off this table, and to the voters and get them to approve it, which I think is going to be very difficult, just like it has been before,” Schaefer said.