Athlete on the T.C. Williams Swim and Dive Team (photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook)

Despite the unanimous vote of approval to install a new pool at the Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard campus, even the most positive of voices on City Council last night were lukewarm about how they got there.

The Council voted 7-0 in favor of setting aside $12 million in funding, down from $19 million proposed earlier, with Alexandria City Public Schools diverting some funding from a solar panel project.

Like a parent scolding his child for reckless spending, City Manager Mark Jinks warned that the pool proposal is coming in after the budget has already been approved.

“This is a project that is not in the CIP (Capital Improvement Program),” Jinks told Council. “When the School Board made its request, we all acknowledged that pool capacity needs to be expanded… my proposal is to renovate Chinquapin, change the depth of the pool, and shorten it slightly for the right competitive length.”

Jinks said this would allow the city government and ACPS to determine, at a later date, whether to put a pool in somewhere else with greater access — considering the proposed school would be just a few blocks away from the existing Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King Street), the only other indoor aquatics center in the city.

Jinks also warned that diverting up-front funding from the solar panel projects and opting instead towards privatized sources of funding is a short term budget trick that doesn’t save money in the long term, because the business investing in those solar panels up-front will want that money back from output in the future.

“This is using money that was supposed to be used to buy solar panels and put that into the pot,” Jinks said. “It won’t save us money long-term. It’s a budget tactic that works in the short-term but doesn’t help long-term.”

ACPS would also, Jinks said, face an additional annual operating cost of $1-1.5 million and likely up to $5,000 in capital maintenance expenses. While some pools make some of that cost back in fees and being rented out for private events, Jinks says that complicates the idea that this pool is being funded with equity in mind.

Ultimately, the timing of Chinquapin’s announced closure for cleaning– from June 26-Sept. 6 — helped sway some on the City Council toward funding another pool. City Council member john Chapman said angry public emails have flooded in after the closure was announced.

“I do understand and do believe the city has a number of other priorities,” Chapman said. “If we are forced to push, we will push a pool out of the way like we have before. Whether revenues are down or another project that will require our more immediate attention… I’ve seen that be done. That’s what’s leaning me to support a pool. It’s not that this is the perfect thing. I’m not overly excited for the late addition… but I don’t see another tangible alternative to say ‘we’re not going to do one at Minnie Howard, but instead of that we’re going to do this.'”

Jinks said funding for the pool would come in large part from issuing general obligation bunds for a set amount of money, with the City putting its foot down and saying that’s as much as it will provide.

The move was met with praise from ACPS leadership.

“I am truly overjoyed and thankful with the unanimous vote from City Council to provide funding for the aquatics facility at the Minnie Howard Campus,” School Board member Jacinta Greene told ALXnow. “For far too long Alexandria’s aquatics facilities have not met the needs of our ACPS student athletes or the overall community. Now our swim teams will be able to practice and compete in their own regulation size pool and the community can benefit from an additional pool for aquatics activities.”

Photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook

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A new city announcement today is already making waves: outdoor pools will open next month.

According to the city website, the city’s outdoor pools will reopen on Saturday, June 26, through Labor Day, September 6.

Pools were reopened last year, but with significant restrictions and wait lists for time slots. The only pandemic restriction noted this time around is 10′ physical distance between swimmers.

According to the city, the reopening pools are:

  • Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron St.) — This complex includes a 25-yard pool with a diving well. A separate training pool is available for children up to 42 inches tall. Easily accessible by ramp, the training pool has a depth of 1 to 3 feet. For added convenience, a parking lot, picnic area and tot playground are adjacent to the pool.
  • Memorial Pool at Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe St.) — This small pool can accommodate a maximum of 45 guests at one time. Due to its smaller size, access is limited to Alexandria residents 13 years of age and younger, and their parents or guardians.
  • Warwick Pool (3301 Landover St.) — This shallow, 25-yard pool features an accessible sloped entry pool and six swimming lanes. The pool is conveniently located adjacent to Landover Park, which features a playground.

Also opening is the interactive fountains at Potomac Yard Park’s playgrounds at 2501 Potomac Avenue. The parks feature 36 water jets with programmed sequences and lighting for nighttime effects. Shoes must be worn when using the fountain.

The water park is open every day from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., May 29 to Sept. 6, and then will close an hour earlier from Sept. 7 through Oct. 15.

Photo via Brian Matangelo/Unsplash

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School Board chair Meagan Alderton is pushing for the last-minute addition of an aquatics facility to the planned Alexandria City High School expansion, noting that the addition would help toward rectifying a longstanding racial disparity.

Alderton said Alexandria is guilty of the same nationwide disparity in swimming proficiency, with lack of access to pools for Black Americans creating disproportionately white aquatics sports teams. It’s a disparity Alderton said the city can start to push back against with a new pool at the Minnie Howard expansion planned as part of the high school overhaul.

“You only need to look at the swim team or crew team to know something isn’t right,” said Alderton. “These teams aren’t diverse and don’t represent he populations we serve. We need to be teaching Black and brown students how to swim. We need to be teaching elementary students how to swim. We need to be encouraging these students to participate in aquatics.”

Part of the challenge, though, is that the school request will be coming in late in the budget process, nearly a month after Alexandria’s City Council approved this year’s budget.

The pool had been included in earlier concept review, but hadn’t made the final cut for the budget process after analysis showed the pool would cost $1.2 million to offset the energy requirements of the pool keep the school at its Net Zero goals.

“Funding for pool is not in the School CIP,” said City Manager Mark Jinks. “That funding is not currently available. To change that, it would need to come forward as request from School Board to Council to change that number. That assumes that pool cannot be built for dollar amount set aside for Minnie Howard.”

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings said the schools would be moving forward with that request as soon as possible, saying a final decision would need to be made by the School Board sometime in the first week of June.

“Our design team asked for [a decision] by the beginning of June,” said Erika Gulick, director of capital programs. “We are already in the DSUP process. [The current] iteration currently includes a pool. Where Pre-K ends up going depends on the pool.”

ACPS staff said a they were aiming for a final decision at the June 9 School Board meeting, but Jinks said that’s too late. A submission from the School Board should come in no later than June 1.

While acknowledging the challenge of the late change, Alderton said if the city is committed to its goals of racial equity, it will find a way to make it happen.

“We are, indeed, asking the city to provide additional dollars to provide this facility for the Minnie Howard site,” Alderton said. “I find it hard to think there will be racial equity without investing dollars in communities that have historically been denied access… Consider it reparations for People of Color, because it’s long overdue. It has been so hurtful to watch and this school board is ready.”

Photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Fuel shortage hits Alexandria gas stations — “A Shell station on Duke Street in Alexandria had run out of all grades of gasoline. The Mobil station next door “got lucky,” an employee said, and received a shipment of fuel overnight after running out late Tuesday. The line at Mobil spilled out onto Duke Street just west of Telegraph Road.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria’s COVID-19 percent positivity falls to lowest level — “We continue to watch the percent positivity of COVID-19 tests. Alexandria’s 7-day average positivity is now 2.9%. This is our lowest rate ever. Only 3 other Virginia health districts are lower. Wear your mask, get your vaccine and let’s be done with this.” [Twitter]

Goodie’s Frozen Custard opening by Memorial Day in Old Town — “Something cool is about to open at 200 Commerce St. in Old Town Alexandria. Real cool. Frozen, even. A cute little building that once stored blocks of ice has been transformed into a frozen custard shop called Goodies.”[Washington Post]

Silberberg says Potomac Riverkeeper quote on mailer not intended as endorsement — “My mailer about the environment has a quote from Dean Naujoks, the Potomac Riverkeeper,” former Mayor Allison Silberberg told ALXnow. “It is not an endorsement. It is his personal opinion. It is clearly marked as such. On the other side of my mailer is an endorsement by Andrew Macdonald from the Environmental Council of Alexandria. Dean’s quote is his opinion. If it had been an endorsement, it would have been marked as such.” [ALXnow]

Colasanto Pool redesigns released ahead of meeting — “One week ago, The Zebra Press reported that Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities is seeking community input on the redesign of Colasanto Pool at 2700 Mt. Vernon Ave. Ahead of the May 13 virtual meeting, the Del Ray Gateway Project has released the three proposed designs.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High around 70F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). Low 47F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Game master — “Have you been called a Brainiac or know it all? Are you a D&D Game Master? Come be a Game Master at ERL where we bring the action to life! Escape Room Live is looking for highly intelligent, energetic, quick learners that enjoy problem-solving, are masters in their class, and current college grads. If this is you, then we have the job for you! Now hiring for part-time full-time candidates with flexible hours, weekend availability is preferred. Highly competitive pay rates up to $11 Hourly.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Ada’s On The River chef envisions opening his own restaurant someday — “Though it just opened in January of this year, Ada’s On The River in Alexandria’s Old Town has already become the subject of laudatory profiles in national publications and dubbed as one of the best restaurants in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. The reason? Ada’s secret weapon: Chef Randall Matthews.” [Essence]

Alexandria residents arrested in D.C. protest Sunday — “Police on Sunday said Steve Chang, 28, of no fixed address; Michael Klaus, 51, of Alexandria; and Adam Cunningham, 25, of Capitol Heights were arrested and accused of assault on a police officer and possession of a destructive device. Police said the devices included Roman candles, bottle rockets and other fireworks. A male 15-year-old from Alexandria also was arrested and accused of assault on a police officer, possession of a destructive device and possession of a prohibited weapon, which authorities said was an ax.” [Washington Post]

Police play with kids in Old Town — “A little competition and a lot of laughter. APD officers Vanderah, Coddington and Plisco enjoyed some quality time with the kids in the Old Town Commons community on Sunday afternoon!” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “A few clouds early, otherwise mostly sunny. High around 85F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). Low 64F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Pool snack bar attendant — “Mount Vernon Country Club is currently seeking part-time pool grill attendants. The pool is open 7 days per week for Members and Guests (weather permitting) from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This is the perfect summer job for local high school students and/or recent graduates. Schedule for this position will vary from week to week. The right candidate is outgoing, friendly, and able to multi-task in a busy food-service environment.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria is asking for community feedback for a proposal to turned a long-closed swimming pool in Del Ray into a spray park.

The city, which selected McLean-based LSG Landscape Architecture for the project, is in the process of redesigning the Colasanto Pool at 2700 Mount Vernon Avenue. The pool opened at Nicholas A. Colasanto Center and Park in 1969 and has been closed since 2010. A 2012 aquatic facilities study determined that a spray park would best suit the area.

The city will conduct a virtual meeting on the project on Thursday, March 4, starting at 7 p.m., and the city says that input received will be incorporated into the final design.

“The improvements will be designed and built through the City of Alexandria’s Capital Improvement Program and a Community Matching Fund partnership with The Del Ray Gateway Project,” according to the city.

According to the city’s fiscal year 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program for recreation and parks:

This project will eliminate the safety hazards associated with closed, unstaffed pools, and will benefit a broad range of City residents and visitors. The new facility at Colasanto will be operated similar to the successful interactive fountain at Potomac Yard Park.

The design is scheduled to be finished this year, and construction is planned to start in 2022.

Image via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Independent Investigation Clears ALX Chamber CEO of Wrongdoing — “The Chamber will be immediately scheduling workplace professionalism training for all staff and Chamber leadership and the Chamber’s Code of Conduct will be updated and clearly communicated to staff and members.” [Alexandria Living]

Beyer Votes ‘YES’ as House Passes Equality Act — “The House just passed the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in receiving health care, and more. I voted YES; this is the final vote:” [Twitter]

Council Approves Stormwater Fee Increase — “City council unanimously passed an ordinance doubling the stormwater utility fee from $140 to $280 during Saturday’s public hearing. The increased fee will add $155 million into the city’s coffers over the next 10 years and will help fund an ambitious new flood mitigation action plan, according to city staff. The plan includes various capacity and spot improvement projects meant to overhaul Alexandria’s crumbling stormwater infrastructure.” [Alex Times]

Single Complaint, Lengthy Permitting Process Jettison Classical Concert Series — “There is a noise ordinance in the city – I totally respect it – but our musicians are softer than the birds that chirp along with us, way softer than the airplanes that fly overhead, way softer than the cars and the motorcycles and all the traffic that moves around us.” [Alex Times]

Councilman John Chapman’s Campaign Kickoff Event is March 7 — “Excited to announce my official re-election campaign kickoff event on Sunday, March 7, at 3pm. Check out my website or FB page for more details. chapman4council.com” [Twitter]

Community Invited to Give Feedback on Colasanto Pool Redesign — “The City of Alexandria has hired LSG Landscape Architecture for the project, which will build on recommendations from a 2016 community survey and the city-sponsored 2012 Aquatic Facilities Study. Funding for the project is made possible by Alexandria’s Capital Investment Program as well as a Community Matching Fund through a partnership with the Del Ray Gateway Project.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “A mix of clouds and sun in the morning followed by cloudy skies during the afternoon. High 51F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph…. Cloudy with periods of rain. Low around 40F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Staff Member –“We are seeking dedicated professionals who are reliable, hardworking, and passionate to join our wait staff here at Il Porto Ristorante. Should have at least one year of experience working in high volume dine in restaurant. Compensation is $800-$1200 a week. We will be accepting application’s daily Starting March 1, 2021 between 2-4 p.m.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Longtime Beverly Hills Resident Marilyn Whitehurst Dies — “Sweet, beautiful, kind, funny, and thoughtful with your contagious laugh, charming and unforgettable Southern accent, and always a twinkle in your eye, you will be dearly missed by all, Marilyn. Loved all the times you and the other Saints mom came to the Vineyard. Rest In Peace my dear friend.” [Facebook]

COVID-19 Cases Increase by 36 — “Positive tests up 36 to 2,618 in the City… Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Beyer: Report of Trump Enriching Himself in Office is Predictable — “It’s no exaggeration to say this story would have been the worst scandal that ever happened for most presidential administrations, resulting in a legacy of infamy, disgrace, and possibly impeachment. For Trump it’s a Tuesday night — but we still need to find out what happened.” [Twitter]

City Opens Family Swim Lottery — “Each Thursday and Friday, residents may request swim times for the following Monday through Sunday. Alexandria households may request a maximum of three time slots per week, with no more than one time slot per day. Each Saturday, requests will be processed through a lottery, and households will receive an email notifying whether they have been enrolled or added to a waitlist for each of their requested timeslots. Each confirmed request reserves 45 minutes of pool time and accommodates four people per family unit at Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron St.), or eight people per family unit at Warwick Pool (3301 Landover St.). Swimmer admission fees are due upon arrival at the pool.” [City of Alexandria]

George Washington Middle School Student Wins History Award — “Patrick Ostermann-Healey, a George Washington Middle School student, was awarded the African American History Prize during the National History Day.” [Alex Times]

WMATA Job Fair on July 30 — “By attending, job seekers can learn about immediate employment opportunities with WMATA. These include bus driver, police officer, mechanic, and elevator/escalator apprentice.” [Zebra]

New Job: Lifeguard — “Area Lifeguards get paid the best hourly lifeguard rate in Northern Virginia and are scheduled to work at different facilities within a 15-mile radius. Stay busy by covering shifts at various pools, while putting your punctuality, flexibility and quick learning skills to good use!” [Indeed]

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If you’re hoping to get into an Alexandria pool, grab the tickets while you can.

Every Thursday, the City of Alexandria will release tickets for family outdoor pool swimming or indoor lap swimming. Alexnadria’s outdoor pools are scheduled to be open until Labor Day (Sept. 7). Each ticket is valid for a 45-minute window.

“In accordance with Phase Three guidance, family open swim is permitted with ten feet physical distance maintained between swimmers not of the same household,” the city said on its website. “For open swimming tickets July 20 through September 7, due to high demand, households may reserve one ticket per day up to a maximum of three tickets per week.”

For lap swimming, only three individuals are permitted per lane.

The tickets are only available for Alexandria residents at this time except at the Chinquapin’s Rixse Pool.

The outdoor pool ticket fees are determined by age:

  • Child (0-4) with paid adult: Free
  • Youth (5-17): $3
  • Adult (18-59): $4
  • Senior (60+): $3

Guests are requested to show up ten minutes before their ticket time to undergo a health screening. Masks are required to be worn at the facilities but cannot be worn in the pools.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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