Mission Viejo

“Feel Good” Trumps Common Sense

By Ed Sachs

MV resident Ed Sachs
During the April 21 Mission Viejo City Council meeting, council members voted 4-1 to approve Mayor Trish Kelley’s signing of essentially a blank 20-year contract between the Nadadores swim team (a private organization) and the publicly owned Mission Viejo Aquatics Center.

The Nadadores may pay $76,000 a month for their share of utilities and will now allow residents some limited use of the aquatics center. What was tabled for discussions later are the anticipated financing details to the city-owned facility. The Nadadores will be soliciting Mission Viejo taxpayers to fund more than $6,000,000 for maintenance and facility upgrades that do not include their desired million-dollar dive platform.

Why would the council majority want to rush to sign an incomplete document? True, the current agreement ends in a couple of months, but an ongoing month-to-month contract extension could be allowed until the final agreement details are negotiated by both parties. So many open questions remain that will not be considered in this agreement. Will the public have the opportunity to voice their opinion about Mission Viejo spending taxpayer money for a project costing more than our city’s Tennis Center, Dog Park and Bocce Ball courts combined? And these three facilities are open for all our residents’ use!

Unquestionably, the Nadadores, over the decades they have operated in the city, have brought affirmative recognition to Mission Viejo. In addition, we are all proud of the many Olympic and national swim champions that have come from the program; all feel-good reasons to maintain the partnership. The question however, becomes; how much of the necessary renovation encumbrance should be paid for solely by city residents? In my opinion, discussions must be positioned around a shared solution.

The Nadadores, a nationally recognized brand, must bring sponsorship money and private donations to help offset the cost of the upgrades they are requesting. Last year, they raised $166,000 with 13 sponsors. This is enough to only pay two months of their utility commitment. The friends of the dog park were able to raise money towards that park. The city’s taxpayers should not have to pay what could become over $7,000,000 to meet the swim club’s requests.

In this new agreement, the Nadadores could terminate without cause upon a 90-day notice. If they do not get everything they want, would they just leave the city high and dry? Where is the Nadadores’ skin in the game that is a part of any agreement?

Why would we think that this private organization, which admits it cannot afford to pay 100% of the center’s utility bills, would be able to contribute to a $6 to 7 million facility renovation? Considering our city’s poor track record managing capital improvement projects, the swim club could end up costing city residents much more in fees and change orders before the pool is ever filled.

Would a better win-win consideration be selling the Aquatic Center to a private concern? Just an additional idea.

Ed Sachs and his family have lived in Mission Viejo since 1991. Ed spent 30 years in the consumer electronics industry where he was inducted in the Hall of Fame. He retired as President Emeritus at Pioneer Electronics in 2009. Since retirement, Ed has opened his own leadership-consulting agency while becoming active in the community. In 2012, Ed ran for Mission Viejo City Council. Ed and his wife Leagh, an accomplished and award winning photographer, have two sons, David and Daniel.

Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact Mission Viejo Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak at: (949) 441-0499.

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