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Private Group Steps Up To Take The Plunge
November 7, 1997


Friday, November 7, 1997
Section: news
Page: A03
Scott Andrews
Caption: Photo. Richmond Friends of Recreation has proposed buying and keeping open the 71-year-old Richmond Plunge. (Herman Bustamante Jr./Times). 

RICHMOND A private group with a history of supporting the 71-year-old Richmond Plunge swimming pool has proposed buying the crumbling facility from the city government after voters Tuesday rejected a tax to rehabilitate the landmark. 

The proposal by Richmond Friends of Recreation, a nonprofit corporation, might reduce operating expenses and foster more intense focus on maintenance at the Point Richmond facility, according to advocates of the plan. It also might minimize the city government's legal liability for damages that may be caused by the decrepit building covering the indoor pool. 

Ultimately, a takeover may prevent the Plunge from closing, said Walt Fauerso, a former school board member who suggested the plan as president of Richmond Friends of Recreation. 

"Some people with a wrecking-ball syndrome would just say knock it down. But for others of us, it's part of our heritage, part of our culture and something that should be kept for generations to come," he said Thursday. 

The takeover suggestion won varying degrees of praise from members of the City Council who have played prominent roles in deciding the Plunge's future. All cautioned that a private group would not be able to take over the full $225,000 to $250,000 per year operation immediately. 

But in the wake of the Measure H tax defeat, city officials said they would take a serious look at the proposal. The property tax, which lost by a 2-to-1 margin, would have paid for an estimated $4.5 million renovation and retrofit to the Plunge, as well as other programs. 

City administrators have said the work at the pool is necessary to protect the building from collapse, particularly in an earthquake. City Manager Floyd Johnson recommended earlier this year that the Plunge be closed, although the council has put off a decision. 

City Councilman Nat Bates, a leader in the opposition to Measure H, was enthusiastic about most of Fauerso's suggestions Thursday. 

"I think a nonprofit group can do a much better job in terms of efficiency, in terms of maintenance a lot better job than has been done by the city." Bates said. 

He suggested that the city should lease the building to Richmond Friends of Recreation for one dollar per year. The city should continue subsidizing the group for three to five years, Bates said. 

Mayor Rosemary Corbin and City Councilman Tom Butt, who both pushed for Measure H, were less enthusiastic. 

"My own experience is that finding money for that sort of (historic preservation) thing is extremely difficult these days," said Butt, who is board president of a nonprofit group that owns the historic East Brother Lighthouse. "I'm not optimistic about it, but on the other hand, I am not discouraging them from doing whatever they think is possible." 

Both Corbin and Butt said they will explore the group's proposal and welcome any