City considering having YMCA run Juneau’s pools

The YMCA might be coming to Juneau.

Max Mertz, chair the Aquatics Board, spoke at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday detailing the options for the future of Juneau’s two pools. One of those options is to have a nonprofit take over control of the pools, and Mertz said the Anchorage branch of the YMCA is interested in expanding to other communities around the state, including Juneau.

Founded as the Young Men’s Christian Association in London in 1844, the YMCA serves more than 10,000 neighborhoods in the U.S. It provides a wide array of services particularly for youth, from running gyms and pools to operating summer camps to spearheading movements to get children more active.

The formation of the Aquatics Board in 2015 was preceded by city officials considering closing Augustus Brown Pool downtown in 2014. After what Mertz called “public uproar” around the potential closure, the Assembly formed the Aquatics Board to seek a way to run the pools efficiently. The plan was to have the board last for three years and then reassess the best way to run the pools. The board is set to dissolve this May, though the Assembly can keep the board together if the Assembly members want to keep it together.

Later this month, the Aquatics Board is holding two public meetings about the future of the two pools — Augustus Brown Pool downtown and the Dimond Park Aquatic Center (DPAC) next to Thunder Mountain High School. The first is at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in City Hall Chambers, and the second is at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at DPAC. People can share their thoughts and learn more about the options for the future of the pools. The Aquatics Board is hoping to give recommendations to the Assembly in mid-March about which direction to go.

Mertz outlined a few options that the board has identified for moving forward. The Assembly could either let the board dissolve as planned, or it could choose to extend the board’s life and continue to have it run the pools in the same way.

Another option, Mertz said, is to change the board to a so-called “empowered” board that could hire or fire its own Aquatics Director and select members instead of the Assembly doing it.

The fourth option, Mertz said, is to transfer power of the pools to a nonprofit. This is the option under which the YMCA fits. Mertz said the city could contract an existing nonprofit in town to run the pools, could form one or could bring one into town such as the YMCA. Mertz said it’s very early in this process and there’s quite a bit still to work out.

“There’s a lot of changes that we’re talking about here if we have the Y manage it,” Mertz said. “There’s no guarantees. We think it’s a good suitor and would be good to look at but obviously there’s a lot of uncertainty and that’s something the Assembly is going to have to evaluate.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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