South Valley pool could stay open after all

Protesters plead with the City Council to save the pool at South Valley Middle School.

Gilroy City Council voted to move forward with covering the repairs and operation of the South Valley Middle School pool for three years – pending City inspections and repair estimates – on a 4-3 vote, putting to end a six-month debate that created a real splash among the City and the school district.

After an hour of public comment and heated Council debate, an eager crowd of about 20 Gilroy residents cheered when the decision was made.

To keep the pool open in 2013, the City will have to pay an estimated $199,373 for one-time repairs and operation. Over the course of three years, the city reports indicate that keeping the pool afloat will cost about $486,000.

“The city can afford it and those children on the east side deserve to have that pool,” said a Gilroy homeowner and resident who spoke out on the issue during public comment.

Not every person who spoke to Council during public comment was in favor of saving the pool. Gilroy resident Tom Fischer asked Council to abandon the idea of resurrecting the pool.

“The city operates a balanced budget, where would you find $150,000 a year to fund (the pool)? What other services would you cut?” he said. 

Councilman Dion Bracco said despite having nostalgic feelings toward the SVMS pool, the City should not pay for its repairs. 

“What we’re being asked here tonight is to start pouring money down a deep hole,” Bracco said. “This pool is over 60 years old and it’s going to continue to have problems year after year.”

Councilman Perry Woodward, Councilwoman Cat Tucker, Councilman Peter Arellano and Councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz all spoke out in favor of the motion to keep the pool open. 

Following months of talk that have dragged on since October 2011 between the Gilroy Unified School District and City Council, attempts to hammer out a joint agreement that would hold both parties financially responsible for the pool came to a screeching halt April 30 when Council voted down keeping the pool open.

In a change of heart, Council reconsidered Monday night.

Woodward said because his earliest happy memories were spent in the pool at SVMS, he acknowledged that his “yes” vote was not entirely objective. 

Mayor Al Pinheiro, who voted against keeping the pool open, cautioned the Council to not let their emotions lead their decision.

“Emotions?” Peter Arellano retorted, visibly roused. “Yes, there are emotions involved. The emotions are for the City of Gilroy.”

The City will take over all repairs and operation costs for SVMS, save the $82,000 the Gilroy Unified School District pledged to commit for one-time repairs. 

Council agreed that it’s too late to fix the pool so it could be used this summer, so the City will focus on getting the pool assessed and repaired to be opened for the summer of 2013. 

Westside residents complain about construction dust

About 25 west Gilroy residents showed up to City Council’s regular meeting on Monday to complain about excessive dust levels caused by the initial construction of the Rancho Hills development, a project from Glen-Loma Corporation and Arcadia Development.

“The dust is out of control,” said westside resident John Litzinger, who brought photos of the dusty neighborhood as well as a plastic bag full of dust he collected to pass around to Council members.

“The contractor is saving time and profit and passing the cost on to the home owners in the neighborhood,” Litzinger said.

Seven other angry westside residents railed against Council for not mitigating the problem.

Resident Joe Young, who painted himself as a no-nonsense military veteran that would never complain about a trivial issue, grew emotional when he spoke to Council.

“We’ve suffered for two months and not one of you showed up at our door and said show me the dust,” Young said. “Why not? No answer, huh?”

Young said his neighbor is pregnant with twins and can’t breathe the air in her own home. 

“I’m too emotional, I can’t finish,” he said, as he left the podium mid-thought.

The neighbors complained that the contractor hired by Glen-Loma Corporation, Don Chapin Construction, is moving too fast with his graders and not sufficiently watering the project to keep dust levels down. 

City staff disagreed. Kristi Abrams, community development director, said because the developers are acting within industry standards, they cannot force them to modify the project.

“As the city began receiving dust complains we were in constant communication with the contractor regarding the dust control,” Abrams said.

Abrams said the city has worked with the contractor to increase the amount of water trucks on the project to four – which, she said, is more than is required for a project of Rancho Hill’s size – and reduced the overload of dirt for each grader.

“Over the past week we’ve seen sufficient dust control,” she said as people in the Council audience shook their heads and snickered.

Because the issue was brought up during the public comment section, Council could not delve into a full discussion of the issue, but Mayor Al Pinheiro did address the crowd by saying Council will “continue to monitor” the issue.

Also during Monday’s meeting:

With no discussion, Council voted 7-0 on an ordinance that prohibits jaywalking in all Gilroy school zones. A school zone is defined as any area within a 500 feet radius from a public or private schools with any grades from kindergarten to 12th grade. Funds to place signs around school zones will come from the city’s Safe Route to School federal grant obtained in 2008.

Council voted 7-0 on a new tourism improvement district advocated by the Gilroy Welcome Center that would heavily market overnight stays in Gilroy. The district will yield about $190,000 annually by taxing each Gilroy hotel 2 percent of their room rates. Five major Gilroy hotels have supported the measure so far, providing all the support the measure needs to pass.