County reviewing bids on swimming pool

March 4, 2009 9:44:20 AM PST
Santa Clara County staff members said Tuesday they are still reviewing three proposals from groups interested in operating a county-owned therapeutic swimming pool but do not yet know when they will make a decision.

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Acting county executive Gary Graves was hesitant to give a time frame for when the pool might reopen. At Tuesday's meeting the board granted him authority to enter into an agreement once the county staff reaches a decision, but Graves said he was not sure whether that would happen in the coming weeks, or beyond.

The Timpany Center has been closed since the end of January while the county looks for a new operator. Easter Seals previously ran the San Jose pool, but pulled out due to financial concerns. The county is using this time to conduct maintenance on the pool and has approved funding to keep the pool open through June once they secure an operator.

Nearly 800 area residents use the pool to manage a variety of disabilities, many of them joint-related. Roughly 90 percent of the users are seniors, according to a county analysis.

Three organizations submitted management proposals. Two groups spoke at the meeting to make a case for their strengths in managing the therapeutic pool.

Renate Olaisen, the director of aquatic services for non-profit Abilities United, spoke of her organization's experience operating warm-water therapeutic pools and working with people with disabilities. Abilities United works with adults and children with disabilities and operates the Betty Wright Swim Center in Palo Alto.

Olaisen said her organization was willing to partner with other groups, and could reopen the pool quickly.

"We still stand ready to restore services in two weeks," she said. San Jose State University's department of kinesiology also submitted a proposal.

Shirley Reekie, the head of the department, told the board that the program's faculty and students could provide personalized therapy and rehabilitation classes. The university could also offer classes, "From aikido to yoga," that could generate more revenue to support therapeutic activities, she said.

Her colleague, Nancy Megginson, said that the university would not raise the pool's current rates, which are substantially lower than other Bay Area therapy pools.

The third group, California Sports Center, did not attend the meeting, although Graves said they are still under consideration. Nearly a dozen Timpany Center users were also on hand to urge the county to act quickly. Residents told officials they tried other area warm water pools and found them to be distant, expensive, and lacking in wheelchair-friendly features.

Linda Haro Kennedy said even a few weeks away from the pool could put users back in walkers or wheelchairs, and increases the amount of pain they suffer.

"We're able to stay mobile with the pool," she said.

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