ALAMEDA -- The Island's two swimming centers will stay open until at least September 2014 after the City Council voted Tuesday to extend its agreement with the Alameda United School District to continue their operation.
The unanimous decision follows the council offering the district a $1.15 million loan Sept. 17 to pay for upgrades at the Encinal High School pool and 30 days to accept the terms.
The offer is set to expire at the end of this week, and Superintendent Kirsten Vital is on record as saying that she's confident the district and city will reach a deal.
"There are still numerous details to finalize prior to executing a final agreement," City Manager John Russo said in a background report, where he also recommended the council approve extending the operating agreement. "This extension will provide additional time for the negotiations. It will also allow pool operations to continue for the school teams, community aquatic teams and city programs."
The agreement, which calls for the city and district to split the cost of maintaining the swim centers at Alameda and Encinal high schools, was set to expire Monday.
City and district officials have been looking at ways to pay for upgrades at the Encinal pool and at Alameda High's Emma Hood Swim Center for about two years.
The loan offer approved by the council earlier this month would pay for removing the diving pool and building a single competition and diving pool on the Encinal campus, as well as other work.
The council approved the joint-operating agreement with the district in June last year after Alameda voters rejected a proposal to raise the city's sales tax by a half-cent to help pay for a new swim center, the construction of an emergency operations center and other projects.
Along with offering the school district a loan for upgrades at Encinal on Sept. 17, the council moved to go forward with building an emergency center by extending and refinancing lease revenue bonds, or certificates of participation, that were originally issued in 2002 for seismic and other upgrades at City Hall.
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Lena Tam said she was concerned the city was using bonds for the $2.8 million project, while offering money it already has through its equipment replacement fund for the school district loan.
Students and others who use the swim centers, however, urged city officials to keep the aging pools open, especially through extending the joint operating agreement, until a long-term solution can be found for improving the facilities.
About $1.9 million is needed to renovate Encinal's swim center, according to Aquatic Design, the district's consultant. The center features a heated outdoor pool and is used by the school's swim and water polo teams, as well as the public.
The cost of keeping the swim centers open is about $308,000 annually, Russo said, with the city picking up the tab for about $154,000. Both sides pay for ongoing maintenance.
If they cannot reach agreement on the loan for the Encinal swim center, district trustees could seek the money elsewhere, while city officials said they would likely explore the feasibility of building a new pool at Alameda Point.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654. Follow him at Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.