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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, April 3, 2003

Private operator of city pools considered

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

The City Council is considering a partnership with private organizations to bring public swimming pools into more communities.

Council Chairman Gary Okino suggested that the city could join forces with the YMCA, giving the organization $1.5 million to build a pool, as well as $2 million to put into an interest-bearing account to operate the pool.

The $3.5 million is about half of what it would cost for the city to build a pool on its own, not counting operating and maintenance costs, Okino said.

"This is a great example of a public-private partnership," Okino said. It would get the city out of having to operate swimming pools, "yet we could provide public time with probably no liability because it belongs to the YWCA," he said.

The City Council's Budget Committee approved a resolution yesterday urging the administration to work with a private entity to build, operate and maintain public pools.

Don Anderson, president of the YMCA of Honolulu, called a partnership with the city a "win-win-win" situation that would halve the city's initial investment, as well eliminate all operation and maintenance costs. The operator would benefit by being able to use the pools for specific programs during nonpublic hours, while communities would benefit because more pools could be built faster, he said.

Anderson said he came up with the idea for the partnership after reading about the city's struggles to find the money to build, operate and maintain the city pools. He noted, "The city has the same interests as we have and other organizations have: How do we best serve the people of our island community and how do you knock down the barriers to that happening?"

Councilman Charles Djou said the city should also try to work with the state Department of Education to find a way to open the Kaiser High School swimming pool to the public during nonschool hours.