WALLA WALLA — Whitman College will no longer allow its pool to be used for city Parks and Recreation swim classes, which will most likely mean a shortage of swimming and water safety classes this summer.
“The partnership was to have been temporary, until the city built a new swimming facility. But the three failed bond measures have left the community without a public swimming facility,” Peter Harvey, Whitman’s treasurer and chief financial officer, stated in an email Wednesday to the Union-Bulletin.
In 2003 and 2006, aquatic center bond measures failed to receive a 60 percent super majority. Then in 2012, a proposed tax levy increase failed to receive a simple majority when 58.9 percent of voters cast ballots against the $8 million aquatic center plan.
The college will still open its pool to the Walla Walla High School and Walla Walla Swim Club teams, but the city Parks and Recreation and Campfire programs generate too high a volume and thus are “not sustainable for the college, for liability and building-related issues, so that partnership has ended,” Harvey wrote.
For the last six years, Parks and Recreation has used Whitman’s pool to provide 300-400 swimming classes each summer.
City officials started using the pool in the summer of 2007 as a temporary fix to the shortage that was created when Memorial Pool was shut down due to too many failing components and too little use.
“Originally, when Memorial Pool was closed, Whitman stepped up as a great community member and offered for us to use their pool until we received our own pool again,” Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont said. “We have enjoyed their hospitably for six years and their belief is that it appears that we don’t have one and will not get one and we need to find another option.”
Parent-toddler and level-one swim classes will still continue at Jefferson Pool, but so far the only option for level two and up will be existing swim programs taught at the YMCA or Walla Walla University pool.
Linnay Hays, WWU aquatics director, said the university will add more classes but nowhere near the amount needed to provide for what Dumont estimates as close to 400 youths who took swim classes through the city each summer.
Rebecca Thorpe, aquatics director at the YMCA, said swim classes have recently been restructured from 30-minute to 40-minute sessions and the change has already left them with no extra room this year.
“Our schedule is completely full with not only swimming lessons but all the other programs that we provide,” Thorpe said, adding that the Y will offer swim classes for up to 1,876 youths this summer.
Both the Y and WWU swim classes are open to the general public. The Y gives discounts to its members and the university gives discounts to its faculty and staff.
Dumont said city continues to work with Walla Walla University to determine how many extra classes it can teach this summer.
“We are talking to them about the potential use but it is not looking real possible at this point. That is a big loss for us, but it is certainly not the responsibility for Whitman,” Dumont added.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.