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Media Coverage
Richmond Council Keeps Plunge Above Water
September 25, 1997


Thursday, September 25, 1997
Section: news
Page: A03
Scott Andrews 

RICHMOND The City Council voted Tuesday to keep the historic Plunge swimming pool open at least until Nov. 4 despite fears that the crumbling 71-year-old building will collapse. 

The vote gave a reprieve to the Point Richmond landmark to the satisfaction of residents who say they love the giant indoor pool as much for the way it symbolizes Richmond as for its $1.75 admission fee. But the 7-2 decision also leaves the city government on shaky legal ground should anyone be injured at the pool and sue. 

The decision shot down City Manager Floyd Johnson's plan to shut the building Oct. 1. But its long-range future remains undecided, with city officials estimating full repairs will cost $4.5 million. 

City building official Fred Clement said the building has rusted steel supports and crumbling mortar. 

Councilman Tom Butt, who wrote the council's formal decision, said after the vote that he "absolutely" expects the Election Day closure date to prod voters to support Measure H, a $24 million bond issue that would include money for the Plunge. 

Swimmers and people who use the pool for water aerobics said they were happy the pool will not close next week. But they vowed to wreak havoc on council members if they do not find a long-term solution. 

But council members who oppose keeping the pool open past Oct. 1 warned of legal liability, some of which council members may be forced to accept personally. 

"This could possibly border on gross negligence, because we are aware of the danger," said Councilwoman Lesa McIntosh, an attorney. Vice Mayor Donna Powers joined her in voting no. 

Although the council acquiesced to most of the demands of pool users, and the final vote was lopsided, the debate was interrupted by frequent catcalls. The audience, which seemed overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the building open, was peppered by signs reading "Save the Plunge!" 

After two hours of heated debate, a woman in the audience threatened that Powers would be shot because of her position. Powers responded by saying she may ask police to handle the woman's threat. 

Another person in the audience shouted that people shouldn't vote for Powers. The vice mayor responded that she is moving out of town and would not want the woman's vote even if she were staying. 

"It's been the strangest hearing we've probably ever had. We did what the public wanted us to do and then we sat here for over an hour and got yelled at," Mayor Rosemary Corbin said when it was over. 

Another flashpoint was over Johnson's decision to plan for closure of the Plunge without first consulting the City Council. 

Councilman Nat Bates took the lead in castigating Johnson. 

"No single person in the city should be able to dictate to the rest of the city what should be done," Bates said. 

Johnson defended himself, saying that if the building had collapsed he would have been blamed for not closing it. 

Until Nov. 4, the most dangerous parts of the pool will be cordoned off, the maximum allowed usage will be cut in half and a warning will be posted at the entrance.