By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
It will be up to Councilwoman Gina Belforte whether Rohnert Park residents see one of their public swimming pools, which has been closed since 2010, reopened this year.
Belforte was absent Tuesday from the City Council meeting, where her four colleagues on the dais couldn’t agree on what to do about Magnolia Pool, which the city shut down as it wrestled with a gaping budget deficit.
“We don’t have a consensus,” said Mayor Pam Stafford, who had argued that reopening the pool this year was not fiscally wise, especially with the two pools that remain open facing steep improvement and repair expenses.
The issue will be taken up later in the year as the city fashions its budget for the next fiscal year.
“There’s still hope,” said Councilman Joe Callinan, who in 2010 had voted against closing the pool. On Tuesday, with Councilman Amy Ahanotu, he called for it to be reopened for the summer months.
“We talk about spending on economic development,” Callinan said, referring to the activity that the council has established as priority to help it regain its financial footing. “That’s what you do for economic development, you get your assets back in order.”
The discussion took place as part of a larger one in which City Manager Gabe Gonzalez and Finance Director Cathy Orme told the council that the city will end the fiscal year with a $953,894 general fund deficit.
That’s a dramatic shift from last June, when officials said they expected to be able to balance the budget by this year. But declining cash flow caused partly by increased medical insurance, workman’s compensation and pension costs have widened the gap again, Gonzalez said.
But both Callinan and Ahanotu said the city could come up with the $22,000 a year that Public Works Director Stewart John McArthur said it needs to run Magnolia again.
“I think we can come up with $22,000 to provide this service for our residents,” Ahanotu said.
But Stafford, who in 1999 gathered petition signatures against the pool when it was proposed, and Councilman Jake Mackenzie said it wasn’t viable.
Its location is poor, on an exposed knoll, and it attracted the fewest visitors among the city’s pools, Mackenzie said.
“The history at that pool is not one to inspire confidence,” he said.
Stafford said the budget situation is “too tight” and the city’s two open pools — Benicia, which is open in the summer months, and Honeybee, the only one open year-round — are adequate.
“Santa Rosa has two pools, Petaluma has one,” she said. “We’re smaller than both those cities.”
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.