News

Menlo pool contract receiving deeper study

Parks and Rec Commission wants more information

Plenty of questions remain after Menlo Park disclosed its intention to offer Team Sheeper a new, 10-year contract to privately manage the city's public pools.

At the Parks and Recreation Commission last night(Jan. 19), both the public and the commissioners asked city staff for answers.

Main questions

Three main questions need answering, they said: What constitutes reasonable pool access for the city's residents as well as members of Team Sheeper's competing swim club, SOLO Aquatics?

Has SOLO in fact received fewer and fewer hours at the Burgess pools during the five years that Team Sheeper has managed the facility?

And why did the contract approval process change from the one originally outlined in the city's request for proposals, without public notice?

"I am now told that this process will not be honored," said Robin Stewart, whose 6-year-old daughter swims with SOLO. "How is this acceptable to the City Council? There are rules governing any RFP process and I want to know those rules have been followed."

Even the commissioners were unaware of the change until last night's meeting. When requesting proposals in August, staff members initially said they would present their recommended choice of provider to the City Council and let the council decide whether to start negotiations.

But negotiations started in December, and the council has yet to be involved.

"The result of increasing the opportunities for public involvement was the extension of the process timeline by two months, creating the need to go directly to negotiations so the selected provider has adequate time to gear up for contract implementation," Community Services Director Cherise Brandell told The Almanac.

When asked by the Parks and Recreation Commission about the change, Ms. Brandell explained that Team Sheeper needed several months to hire and train employees to work at the Belle Haven pool, which would fall under his management starting with three months this summer.

However, the commission suggested that Belle Haven could wait, if that meant having more time to make sure the long-term contract benefits the city's residents -- not just Team Sheeper.

Hours and rent

The discussion also addressed criteria for awarding the contract. Although SOLO bid $20,000 rent per month to manage the facility, Ms. Brandell said, staff didn't believe the group could meet that commitment after analyzing its financial statements.

The proposed contract has Team Sheeper paying $3,000 a month plus operating costs to manage both the Burgess and Belle Haven pools.

Several SOLO members told the commission that the new contract will kill their program and questioned why anyone would believe a for-profit program like Team Sheeper would let a competing, nonprofit program like SOLO flourish under the same roof.

"Our lane space has been reduced 30 to 40 percent in my estimation over the past five years," said Erin Glanville, whose three children swim with SOLO.

One provision of the contract moves SOLO across town to the Belle Haven pool during the summer. Ms. Glanville called it "utterly outrageous" that the club was singled out for elimination from Burgess during one of the busiest seasons of the year.

Read before proceeding

Since City Attorney Bill McClure continues to review the contract, the Parks and Recreation Commission did not have a copy at last night's meeting.

The commissioners, reluctant to make recommendations for the City Council on a contract they haven't seen, instead voted unanimously to form a subcommittee to review the draft contract as soon as the city provides it, and then hold a special meeting on Thursday, Feb. 3, to discuss the draft and view a staff presentation on the allotment of pool time for all groups.

Commissioners Kristi Breisch and Nick Naclerio volunteered to serve on the subcommittee.

Meanwhile, negotiations with Team Sheeper continue. "We're getting to a place right now where both (clubs) will be angry with us, and we think that's the right place to be," Ms. Brandell said.

Comments

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Posted by Wondering..
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 20, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Doom and gloom for SOLO?
Doesn't SOLO have access to the pool at Menlo-Atherton during the summer? Is their goal to become as big as some of the other multi-pool teams? Granted during the school year there is limited access to the M-A pool during the afternoons, but I'm sure the Sequoia Union High School district would love to have SOLO paying $20,000 a month during the summer.

Note: the Almanac should share some of the numbers for what it costs to run the pool: heating costs, insurance, maintenance, personnel, etc. Tossing around huge numbers is a lot of fun, but regardless of how much better the new pool is at Burgess it still costs a LOT of money to run, and that is all savings to the tax payer while their investment is being maintained. Access is the issue. The cost to the swimmers and SOLO is simply what the public has passed on instead of making this a pool that is paid for by the public at large.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by due diligence
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm

So, if staff didn't think SOLO could come through with the promised rent to the city, did they consider seeking something in escrow to protect the city, did they consider a lower rent that's somewhere between the $20,000 offered by SOLO and the $3,000 offered by Sheeper, and did they consider running the numbers past the Financial advisory committee (or whatever it's called)?
Frankly the process stinks - staff is jumping to conclusions and even negotiating details without input from the P&R commission or Council.
It is absurd that the excuse is that things have to happen now or something dire will occur. This is the lame excuse staff used last time. The current contract could not be extended month by month or even past the summer until things are sorted out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by due diligence
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I meant to say at the end that the current contract COULD be extended month by month, or even past the summer until things are sorted out. It makes no sense to rush a long-term contract like this.

Why is this in Around the Town rather than in Menlo Park category?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by editor
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm

due diligence: the first poster put this topic in the Around Town category. I just changed it to Menlo Park.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roxie
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

The staff needs to release the proposals they recieved to the public. If someone is willing to pay $20,000 per mo rent vs. $3,000, that is over $200,000 a year that could return to the city for other uses--over 10 years we are talking more than $2,000,000.

The pool was built on public land, with public funds. It does not belong to any swim club or swim team owner. If the SOLO organization can run the pool and pay the that much more money, who in their right mind would say no? Does the Belle Haven pool cost that much to run in the summer, is that what the Sheeper group is offering to put 200K a year into? If so, maybe it would be reasonable, but I don't think the Belle Haven pool is that expensive. The public needs to see the proposals.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by due diligence
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm

The behavior of staff, without direction from the Council, frankly smells. Even if there is no foul play, I am concerned that the city is not following the process it spelled out, appears to be short-changing the taxpayers, and appears to be favoring one bidder over another without oversight from either the Council or the public. This is inappropriate.
Cutting off one bidder entirely on the basis of a bid that is much higher than the other bidder also does not make sense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Get Real
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 31, 2011 at 10:42 am

Would people please, please read the Menlo Park staff report? It is amazing what hysteria is flying around out there. It also smells of a disinformation campaign by SOLO members trying to stir up support for their unfair demands.

Read the report! Web Link

SOLO is the one asking that any competitive team offered by Menlo Swim & Sport be removed. Boy, talk about willingness to share the pool!

SOLO gets a deal of $6/lane hour and they're complaining?? If you add up all the costs for pool access SOLO pays, it's less than 10% of their revenue. Do they somehow think it should be free? Unbelievable! I've got 3 kids all swimming on Mavericks--and guess what, I'm an MP resident and I'm happy to pay for our use of the pool! Amazing how some people want everyone else to pay for their kids' benefits.

And Menlo Swim & Sport are NOT getting the pools for 3k / month. They pay ALL the costs for the pool. The MP staff reviewed ALL of the Menlo Swim financials and came to the opinion that their budget could support 3K / mo and had only reasonable return to the operator. And when you have a reasonable rent proposed to the city, by an operator that's run a PROVEN excellent program, you don't just ditch them for the next provider that comes along with an unproven budget and no staff in place! Why on earth would you even think of doing that?! Thank goodness the city staff has more sense than some of the posters here!


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