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Richmond Pool Closed During Safety Analysis
The Plunge's 'Seams Are Beginning To show,' Says A City Spokeswoman

August 23, 2001
RICHMOND -- Citing serious safety concerns and potential lawsuits, local officials took the plunge Wednesday and closed one of the city's favorite swimming pools.

The historic Richmond Plunge, built in 1925 and home to a variety of swimming and aquatic health programs, will remain closed while an engineering consultant evaluates the building's seismic and structural integrity.

"The building needs to be structurally retrofitted and the seams are beginning to show," said Angela Jones, city spokeswoman. "Public safety has to be the first priority, so we felt we had to shut it down immediately."

The Point Richmond pool is owned by the city and operated by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The City Council will discuss the pool closure during a special meeting at 11 a.m. today. The meeting agenda describes the closed-session item as "anticipated litigation ... one potential case involving the Richmond Plunge."

Although some city employees have expressed concern about working at The Plunge, no lawsuits are pending and the agenda wording is customary language to describe closed sessions involving potential legal issues, Jones said.

"If someone got hurt relating to The Plunge, it could result in a lawsuit," she said.

The Brown Act, a state law dictating open meetings policy, includes broad language allowing a governing body to call an executive session if there is any threat of litigation.

After a briefing with Public Services Agency Director Rich McCoy, Councilman Tom Butt said a city employee refused to work at The Plunge this week because he believed there was an unsafe condition.

McCoy inspected the building and found a bulge on the building's western wall that was not mentioned in previous safety reports, Butt said. Fearing a newly developed structural flaw, McCoy recommended the city bring in a consultant to perform an inspection, which should not take more than a couple of weeks, Butt said.

All scheduled swim programs have been moved to the Richmond Swim Center at 45th Street and Cutting Boulevard on the Kennedy High School campus.

The building's structural deficiencies are common knowledge to the pool's loyal clientele. Last year, the city hired an aquatic consultant to explore partnering with a private company to turn the facility into a full-scale fitness center.

The partner would help pay the estimated $7 million bill for repairs.

"They're still coming up with the report," Butt said. "It's been excruciatingly slow, but I think the city is headed in the right direction."