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On Third Try, Bulkhead Still Ahead

Richmond city leaders move ahead with pool partition, even as community debate continues

By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 12/16/2009 01:36:05 AM PST

Updated: 12/16/2009 01:36:05 AM PST


A pool divider is bound for Richmond, as public debate over whether it's a wise use of city dollars continues.

A divided City Council voted Tuesday night to stick to their decision to buy a $350,000 bulkhead for the 83-year-old Plunge pool. The bulkhead would create a 25-yard short course for lap swimming in the deep end and recreational use in the shallow end.

"The question is what makes the best pool for the citizens of Richmond over the next 70 years," said Councilman Jeff Ritterman, who supports the partition.

Whether the Plunge, which is under renovation, should sport a bulkhead when it reopens next year has splintered the community. Supporters say the partition will make the pool more flexible and diversifying its use will bring fresh revenue. But opponents argue it is an unnecessary purchase the city cannot afford, especially when it has a pool fit for competitive swimming at the Richmond Swim Center, and the device could hinder recreational swim.

Council members voted Nov. 17 to buy the bulkhead, a decision that did not quell public debate. Opponents pinned hopes for a vote reversal on Councilman Jim Rogers' request that the bulkhead be revisited. Rogers' proposal failed to gain enough council support Tuesday.

A portion of the $1.9 million left over from the Civic Center rehabilitation will be used to purchase the bulkhead, officials said. Parents, Resources and More in Point Richmond has raised about $5,600 for the partition and fundraising coordinator Courteney Coolidge said the group will continue to collect donations.

Officials initially planned on a customized 60-foot-long fiberglass bulkhead with panels along the bottom that would be manually positioned as needed. Crews were holding off on tiling the pool until the bulkhead arrives and closing the Plunge's south wall, the entry point for the partition.

Some residents as well as the city's recreational staff have raised concerns that the bulkhead and its panels would be difficult to operate, requiring additional employees the city cannot afford to hire, and pose safety and liability issues. Bulkhead supporters disagree.

A new design is being contemplated: a stainless steel bulkhead with a motorized skirt activated by pushing a button. City Engineer Rich Davidson said this version can enter the building in pieces and be assembled inside. That means crews can finish tiling the pool and close the south wall while the bulkhead is being manufactured, which would save time and money, he said.

Katherine Tam covers Richmond. Follow her at Twitter.com/katherinetam.