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Winter doesn't stop these swimmers

Original post made on Mar 10, 2009

You could reasonably expect Burgess Pool to be mostly empty this time of year, save for a hardened few. A weekend dip in the pool tends not to be the first thing that springs to peoples' minds on the wet, gray days of winter and early spring.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (31)

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Winter did not stop these swimmers thanks to the creative and ever so assiduous Tim Sheeper. If the SEIU had operated the pool there would have been no dome. You can take that to the bank. Thank you Tim Sheepr for being so generous and attentive to Menlo Park. Job well done!

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:20 pm

When you don't have to pay rent on a new $7 million facility, you can afford to be a little generous.

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Reality Check,

Tim Sheeper is operating the pool at a savings of $500,000/ year. That is being quite generous.

Posted by Reality rules, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:20 pm

"When you don't have to pay rent on a new $7 million facility, you can afford to be a little generous." Yes, indeed. Especially when forking out the money for a dome enhances your own profit.

I'm truly happy Sheeper has shown himself to be a competent manager of our pools, and I wish him continued success. But PLEASE (I'm talkin' to you, Hank) don't misrepresent reality here. Sheeper is providing services that many residents are happy with, and I'm glad to see that, and might support continuing his contract with the city if the city would conduct a fair and honest bidding process and Sheeper were to come out the best bet. But to claim that the city couldn't have provided equal or even better service is preposterous because there's nothing that can be brought into the equation to support it. The city staff was never given the chance to propose a program. Tim Sheeper's management of the pools was a done deal, thanks to the sleazy back-room dealing that went on under the Winkler/Jellins/Duboc regime. So spare us the gloss, Hank. Our memory of what transpired is better than you give us credit for.

Posted by more reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm

There's no basis for the $500k number that keeps getting tossed around. It's just a random figure. And, by the way, Sheeper isn't covering OUR cost -- we taxpayers are paying for the bond that financed the pool he was given! And those are real dollars on our property tax statements.

Posted by even more reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 8:28 am

I agree with all that Sheeper is doing an excellent job operating the pool. It is unfortunate that there was not a legitimate bidding process. However, the city will have an opportunity to conduct one in the future. I personally doubt that the city could have produced a winning bid, and I do not regret the outsourcing of the operations.
What I do have lingering issues with are the facts that other bids were not sought, there was no attempt to recoup any rent on a brand new pool, the current rates charged violate the terms of the contract even though at least some of the "market" is willing to pay, and the city looks the other way when such issues are raised.

Posted by More info needed, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 9:10 am

Even more reality, in what way do the current rates charged violate the terms of the contract? Do they exceed some sort of restriction written into the contract?

Posted by even more reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 9:24 am

Rates are supposed to be comparable to other cities'. These are higher. I don't remember the exact contract words.

Posted by Another bit of reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 11, 2009 at 9:40 am

The rates are to be comparable. See Web Link

Sheeper has said that he considers the facility to be more like a country club and is charging accordingly. It is cheaper for my family to go to Rinconada in Palo Alto. Recreational swimmers also get access to the entire facility in Palo Alto instead of being shunted into a corner.

Posted by Get Real, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:53 am

I pay $40.00 a month for lap swimming, which I think is reasonable, particularly under the dome in the hot tub.(what a great experience) Rinconada has a huge kids pool, probably one of the largest on the peninsula, diving boards and a much larger facility. Yes, you should go to Rinconada, Burgess is a 1/3 the size. Next time, let's compare apples with apples.
I find it really hard to believe that the "pool discussion" continues. Meanwhile, we are still paying for an overinflated city staff with outrageous salaries, benefits and pensions. Seems to me, some people have a personal agenda with the pool discussion. Good luck with that, bring back the SEIU, I'm sure they'd run the facility in a much more efficient manner.(NOT!)

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 11, 2009 at 12:18 pm

"Reality Check"and "Reality Rules" do not have their facts straight. Before the pool operation issue came up Lee Duboc had already demonstrated that she was acting in the best interests of the City when she became the swing vote to vote against the a 50-meter pool. Nicholas Jellins and Chuck Kinney were for it and Mickie Winkler and Paul Collacchi were against it. The extra construction costs plus the higher recurring costs caused Lee to vote against the 50-meter pool. For this fiscally prudent decision she was excoriated by many of her close friends who were members of Menlo Masters, a group run by Tim Sheeper.

When the operations contract for the now rebuilt Burgess Pool complex came up the City had no experienced personnel to operate the pool since they had either voluntarily left the City's employ or were laid off during the pool's 2-year reconstruction. Also, with the city facing projected budget deficits, the $500,000 per year recurring cost of the pool's operation and programs was something that over 70% of the city's residents who responded to the scientific poll, that was part of the "Your City/Your Decision" process, were willing to forego.

The City Council was actually discussing the possibility of NOT opening the new pool complex. Tim Sheeper, who was no friend of Lee's, approached the City Council (during a public meeting) to see if they would be interested in having him operate the pool. His fees would come from the pools' users and the City would have no financial exposure. Mr. Sheeper offered to cover ALL maintenance costs as well.

So, instead of operating the pool at a $500,000 loss, the city would have a well-run, fully operational aquatics program at ZERO cost to the City. The City Council instructed the city staff to run this proposal by the Parks and Recreation Commission, of which Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline were members. The Parks and Recreation Commission performed its due diligence and heard nothing but glowing accolades from people who were previously enrolled in other Tim Sheeper Programs. Then the Parks & Recreation Commission voted unanimously to recommend awarding the pool operation to Tim Sheeper on a four year trial basis.

Meanwhile the city staff attempted to find other pool operators to express interest in operating the pool. None came forward. That is why no RFP was issued. It is common practice in the Federal Government if there are no other interested qualified parties to have a directed procurement(For example, when the Hubble Space Telescope was built NASA directed Lockheed Martin to procure the lens blanks from Schott in Germany. No RFP was issued for that subcontract).

Also the pool only had a 1-year warranty. Any defects discovered outside the one year were not remediable. The City would have to absorb the cost of curing the defects discovered outside the 1-year warranty period. It was important to get this operation underway since there were no qualified city staff to operate the pool. The city was very fortunate to have Mr. Sheeper offer his services at this most urgent time.

Anyone who questions the quality of service at Burgess Pool only need to ask any of the swimmers. You will be hard pressed to find anyone, other than an SEIU member, who will say the pool was better operated by the City than by Tim Sheeper.

In 2011 the pool will come up for a renewal contract. If there are other interested bidders an RFP should be issued. One Section M Evaluation Criteria for Federal Procurements is Past Performance. Since Tim Sheeper's past performance has been a solid "Blue" other competitors would be at a disadvantage. When an incumbent has outstanding past performance the USG will often retain the incumbent even when other companies underbid him because Past Performance plays such an important role in the proposal evaluation process.

Posted by Thank You Hank!, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 11, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Now, ENOUGH WITH THE POOL! CASE CLOSED! How 'bout talking about our city's budget, and overpaid employees, with lifetime benefits and pensions!

Posted by Melinda Tevis, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Hey Menlo Park---dosen't anyone remember that Menlo Masters offered to give and pay for that pool just so the team could get back to where it started and keep swimming with our coach and with eachother ???--The city turned down the offer cuz they were worried that the team's enthusiasm might mean we were some kind of scary cult. --I have to admit that all those happy healthy and fit swimmers are terrifying----but don't blame the coach for finding another way to benifit the community.

Posted by Thomas, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm

At last, the 500th iteration of the pool debate is actually on a Burgess-pool related thread. Congratulations, everyone! Now just stay here, and stop wandering off to other threads.

Posted by no to rewriting history, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 11, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Repeating a lie for the nth time does not make it fact.

Posted by even more reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm

The key words (thank you for pointing to the actual contract Hank) are: "The rates/fees charged for public lap swimming and for open/recreational swim shall be comparable to rates/fees charged by other public facilities in surrounding communities." Not country club prices as Sheeper admits he charges, but public facility rates. This is important because not everyone can afford country club rates, and because that was the negotiated agreement.

The reason this is important is that when the city evaluates outsourcing services, it must be prepared to seek bids in an open process, negotiate hard on behalf of the taxpayers who are on the hook for costs the outsources does not pay (and could benefit if, heaven forbid, there might be revenue sharing in some instances), and enforce the contractual terms that are negotiated. The city of Menlo Park has done a lousy job of this, in my opinion. This is just one example.
Believe it or not, I actually favor outsourcing certain services that include the pool operation, not just because of the costs but also better service. Unions serve an important purpose and I do not want to get rid of them as some appear to desire. However, we must do our part as a city to ensure that we're doing right by the people who pay the bills (we taxpayers). Regular evaluation of outsourcing is one way to ensure that city operations are competitive in terms of both financial and quality of services provided.

Posted by Disappointed but Hopeful, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 12, 2009 at 11:06 am

I am disappointed that the politics of the pool outsourcing persist. I look forward to 2011 to put this issue to rest. Contrary to statements made above, Menlo Swim rates are more than comparable to other local facilities. Rinconada does not have a 84 degree heated pool year round (trust me this a tremendous asset) and offers far fewer hours for lap swimming (weekdays Burgess is open for 14 hours of lap swimming compared to 6 at Rinconada). Drop-in rates for residents are $5 for adults compared to $4 at Rinconada. Both offer senior-citizen discounts and

I encourage you to stop by the pool on a weekend for a few hours. This pool is used by many groups including Masters. Many of the surrounding communities also have Masters programs and during those hours also have fewer swim lanes open - but no one is relegated to a corner. On the weekends, hundreds of kids are in swim lessons, adult water polo teams, outside triathlon teams, programs to teach local disadvantaged kids to swim. In the summer, local camps use the pool, two kid youth swim teams, aquatic fitness classes.

I argue that the community has benefited from Menlo Swim's . It is fair to discuss fees and revenue sharing but not out of spite or perception of profiteering. Such a discussion should consider the risks any business owner takes. Menlo Swim invested in many programs and has reached out to local acquatic groups. In return, our community swim pool offers the widest range of programs of any facility on the peninsula at comparable rates and at no cost to the city in the short-term or long-term. Please reach out to others in the community for feedback related to existing pool operations and future improvements rather than focusing on prior events.

Posted by even more reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm

To Disappointed, I share your desire that these conversations not be political. In order to do that, we must insist our city conduct itself in ways everyone can support as being fair, above board, and "good business" whenever it considers outsourcing, solicits bidders, and negotiates and enforces contracts. Assuming other services beside pool operations are considered for outsourcing, we can learn from and improve upon this situation.

Posted by We Agree, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I think the policy should be adhered to going forward with all creative ideas of outsourcing, "even more reality" is correct! I wish we had a council, or the backing of Menlo Park citizens to have a healthy debate on ALL of our city's expenses. I think everything should be considered for outsourcing. Why not? If the cost is cheaper, and we get comperable or even better service?? We should put the police, the pool, the child care, tree maintenance and all other services up for bid. This just makes common sense.

Posted by Another bit, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm

"On the weekends, hundreds of kids are in swim lessons, adult water polo teams, outside triathlon teams, programs to teach local disadvantaged kids to swim. In the summer, local camps use the pool, two kid youth swim teams, aquatic fitness classes."

And therein lies the problem. Sheeper is a pro at offering the value-added programs -- the ones for which he can charge extra $$$. But if you just want to bring your family to play for a few hours, you'll be squeezed into a corner. That's why we have to go to Palo Alto. Under Sheeper, Burgess Pool doesn't really have recreational swim, except for the tots, and the kids' prices are much higher than at Rinconada.

Posted by Time To Renegotiate!!!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Another Bit gets close to the heart of the matter:

We unfortunately have a "mixed-system" at work that results in a double-whammy to the average taxpaying citizen:
On one hand, we have a "country-club" type operation that's charging country-club prices. Which is all find and dandy if it's YOUR pool that you have pay for.
On the other hand, this guy's getting the pool for FREE, thanks to our tax-payer dollars.

So, Joe Taxpayer is paying for this "community pool" on one hand, yet to actually use it, he/she has to pay like it's a private country club! That's just plain WRONG!

Given that, before anything else is done - raising the UUT, raising rates in other programs, outsourcing (i.e, giving away) other programs, THIS POOL CONTRACT MUST BE REOPENED AND RE-NEGOTIATED ASAP to something semi-resembling "fair and balanced", because right now it's a total rip-off of taxpayers and, given the current economy, such s--- can't be allowed to continue!

Posted by Over Blow Renegotiate, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Get the facts first "Renegotiate" you are way out of line, and like most of you pool hating, get the unions back types, you more than likely don't own a calculator. Get with it, you're arguing about peanuts here. The issue with our city government is the city employee pensions, period. I know you know that, you are deflecting. Good try, it won't work, the pension issue WILL be the biggest exposed issue to hit the town. Just wait and see. In the meantime, go use your garden hose.

Posted by strange obsessions, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:23 pm

The only employees I usually see at city pools are the teenaged lifeguards and I am pretty sure they don't belong to unions. I realize that some people (is that you, Hank?) are obsessed with unions, but most of us never even think about them! What do unions have to do with Tim Sheeper getting the pool for free or charging high fees or not offering recreational swim? Nothing! Can we stay on track?

Posted by Stay on Track, Good Idea, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 8:40 am

There are no current Union Employees working at the pool, or with Tim Sheeper. However, this is a good thing, and THE REASON there is constant discussion about the pool. It's not the cost, it's not the schedule of events, it's not the quote "sweetheart deal", it's all about beating up the current management (Tim Sheeper) in order to gain the union employees jobs back, that is the bottomline, that's the Big White Elephant in the room. Everything else is window dressing. [Portion removed]

Posted by no white elephants for me, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 9:27 am

It must be scary to be so afraid of union employees that you imagine them stalking you wherever you go. For most of us, it IS about the previous council giving away a brand new facility that we are still paying for!

Posted by White Elephants Can't Swim, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 13, 2009 at 11:03 am

Yes, you are right, all citizens should definitely be scared of the unions! Excellent, thanks for agreeing with this. Perhaps we should solicit your help in a grassroots effort to expose the union's dirty tactics, and extortion, when it comes to the contracts that are quickly eroding our city's treasury! Again, thank you for your comment.

Posted by swimmer, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 13, 2009 at 11:18 am

Someone is hallucinating here. White elephant? Do you concoct that with gin or vodka? Don't drink too many, or you'll end up posting on public forums and regret it the next day.

But back to the pool. Except for a few (one?) hysterical posters, I would guess that most residents agree that we need:

* a fair and open bidding process for outsourcing the pool

* a contract that is sensitive to the needs of the residents (the council that gave Sheeper the pool was much more focused on his need to make a profit!)

* an oversight committee, perhaps a subcommittee of the parks and recreation commission, that assures that the pool operator maintains the facility in the best interests of the public and establishes a schedule that allows the public access to the pool.

Other cities around the peninsula operate successful aquatics programs. Menlo Park need look no farther than Los Altos and Palo Alto for guidance.

Posted by No Swimmer, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Your focus on the pool is for the wrong reasons. We all know that there will be transparency and an open bidding process, that's a given. However, you and your bunch constant focus on this issue makes it seem that people are not happy with the way in which it is operating. I guess is you bring this issue up a thousand times, people will think there's a real problem. As mentioned, time and time again, the pool is not Menlo Park's issue, it's the other bloated areas of our budget that are, and your group knows this. We don't need to look at Palo Alto or Los Altos "for guidance", they're run by the city, with Union Employees, and that would cost our city way too much. Funny how your group forgets this little known fact.

Posted by swimmer, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 13, 2009 at 3:26 pm

The "transparent and open bidding process" did not occur last time, so that is not a given. And who knows who will be on the council when the contract comes up for renewal?

Can we talk about the budget on the budget thread? This thread is about the pool. And who is my "bunch" and my "group?" I don't know anyone in Menlo Park who belongs to a gang, but you make it sound as though we are all members of different Mafia organizations!

Posted by Inquiring Minds Want to Know, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 13, 2009 at 7:22 pm

As part of the contract with Mr. Sheeper, is he under any obligation to open his books to the city?
I assume the answer is no, given that no one has talked about that.

If that is the case, then I would like to see the council press him on that issue - since all the city programs budgets are public, it doesn't make any sense that his should be kept secret. In his case, I don't think all the details need to be made public, but certainly the basic "bottom-line" should be revealed - how much is he in the black and what percent profit does that represent.

If this contract had been done right, such information would have been required to be made public and his profit margin would have been limited to some reasonable maximum percentage, with anything above going back into city coffers.

Posted by even more reality, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 14, 2009 at 9:50 am

There is another track in which anyone can discuss the city's labor contracts. Let's keep to the pool.
Most of us do not begrudge Sheeper making a profit. But he signed a contract that required him to charge comparable rates to other public pools. He isn't, as Disappointed but Hopeful points out. Among other issues about the original contract and how it developed, there is an issue about how the city enforces its agreements and holds accountable even popular service providers to their obligations. Sure, for most of us an extra $1 per swim isn't much, but for others an extra 25% every time they want to swim adds up.

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