Not many disabled people chose to stand up in public and talk about their handicaps. But that’s what Ben Rivers did at the City Council meeting Tuesday.
Rivers was motivated by a pressing need to explain to city policy makers what the warm pool means to its disabled and elderly users.
The pool, located at Berkeley High School, is slated for demolition and the One Warm Pool advocacy group has been lobbying the council for a replacement.
“I have severe Parkinson’s,” said Rivers, trembling visibly and leaning on the arm of a friend. “I’ve tried many different treatments. The only thing that has ever helped is swimming.”
Rivers said he needs a pool heated to the warm pool’s normal 92-degree heat. “Cold water makes my body freeze up,” he said. “It is very necessary for my life.”
Although the council had conceptually approved placing a bond measure on the November ballot asking voters to fund a new warm pool, councilmembers agreed that, at this juncture, there are too many uncertainties to do so and voted unanimously to make the pool one of some two-dozen priority council projects.
Staff will be hired to address this issue, paid for with General Fund money already set aside for the pool.
The school district owns the site where the city hopes a new pool will be built: former tennis courts east of Milvia Street. The district is performing an environmental review of a number of projects in its South Campus Masterplan, including the demolition of the current pool and construction of a new indoor pool with locker rooms, but there is no firm agreement between the schools and city. Such an agreement cannot be finalized until after the environmental review is completed, likely in December, according to City Manager Phil Kamlarz.
“We have to get together with the school district. We’ve been doing this dance,” said Mayor Tom Bates, referring to the uncertainties regarding the new pool site, including which agency will own the site and whether the school district will participate in its maintenance.
These details need to be ironed out before the council can determine what such a project would cost and how to fund it, he said. Bates also noted that because people from neighboring cities use the pool, those cities should participate in its funding.
If the warm pool is demolished without an alternative, Councilmember Dona Spring promised action by the disabled community: “The bulldozers will be blocked. I don’t think (the school district) wants to deal with the consequences,” she said.