I read in the May 13th Planet that the “City eyes bond for warm pool” at Berkeley High main campus. The desired $3,000,000 would fund improvements such as lockers, a water distribution system, and an air circulation system. I support the warm pool users’ quest for such improvements. The pool will provide therapeutic benefits to the disabled citizens, special education students, and seniors citizens of Berkeley.
The voters of Berkeley should be informed, however, that repair of specific deterioration has previously been funded. Approximately 18 months ago the BUSD in partnership with the City of Berkeley contracted with an outside firm to make repairs to the roof of the warm water pool. According to the City, the job was not completed satisfactorily. The ceiling, for instance, was left as raw plywood; not even a coat of paint was applied. Rightfully so, the city demanded the job be finished before reimbursing the school district the two-thirds portion of funding the city had agreed to contribute. Now 18 months later, “the paint is peeling off; the metal is rusting” consultant Sasha Fultran confirms in the Planet’s May 13th story. The estimated shortfall of $65,000 needed to repair the roof/ceiling will be absorbed by the future $3,000,000 bond money if voters approve. One might ask why hasn’t the school district attended to ceiling/roof repairs before now? One might ask how was a contract written that did not specify payment contingent on customer satisfaction?
On May 23rd, the school district will come to the Berkeley City council to ask that they reopen a previously completed Environmental Impact Review of the controversial East Campus playing field project. The existing EIR process closed October 8, 1999. Coincidentally the price tag for extended staff and outside consultant fees is estimated to run $65,000. Rightfully so, the city staff has said enough is enough. The city has already expended $150,000 on the earlier EIR – whose findings the community still awaits. The financially strapped school district has offered to foot the bill by forgiving the city’s “debt” for work on the warm water pool. This is a blatant example of the classic “shell game.” No money ever passes from one coffer to the other, but it comes at the sacrifice of the disabled and senior communities, and ultimately the expense of voters who support schools and help for the above mentioned communities.
If this is an example of how allocated funds are managed, is it any wonder the school district has found itself with a deficit budget? If this is an example of why the district must return to the voters to approve future bonds, I encourage citizens to demand accountability. Up to this point the city has stood firm, requiring the BUSD to be responsible partners in joint projects. I commend the city’s good judgment exhibited by withholding their portion of the pool roof repairs. I ask that the city continue to show good judgment, model good business and budget practices, and say no to the school district when they ask approval to reopen the East Campus EIR process. Agreeing to it would make them accomplices to the district’s mismanagement of funds.
Pamela Webster is a Berkeley resident and the parent of a BUSD student.