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Team Sheeper's pool contract comes under new scrutiny from Menlo Park City Council

Swimmers work out at Burgess Pool in Menlo Park on Feb. 15, 2023. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In an unusual move, Mayor Jen Wolosin is bringing Team Sheeper’s new contract to operate the public swimming pools at Burgess Park and the Menlo Park Community Campus back before the Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Team Sheeper’s current contract expires on Sept. 30. At its Sept. 12 meeting, the council approved a new five-year contract with Team Sheeper to continue operating Burgess Pool and take over operations at the new Menlo Park Community Campus (MPCC) pools. The contract included a change, made at the request of competing bidder Solo Aquatics. The contract was approved in a 3-2 vote with Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor and Council member Betsy Nash dissenting.

Mayor Jen Wolosin, who voted for the contract, requested that it be reconsidered by the council, saying in her weekly email that she has felt uneasy since the Spt. 12 meeting and has “some regret” due to the contract's different requirements for Burgess Pool, located near downtown Menlo Park, and MPCC pools, located in the Belle Haven neighborhood east of U.S. Highway 101.

A contingent from Solo Aquatics, which runs swimming programs, voiced concerns about Team Sheeper's contract at the Sept. 12 council meeting, and asked that Solo’s use of Burgess Pool, which has long been part of previous pool contracts, be added as a way to ensure its access can't be withdrawn without city approval.

The Belle Haven neighborhood has a history of segregation and redlining and still faces related issues, Wolosin wrote. The neighborhood has the worst air quality in Menlo Park and the highest rate of asthma among residents, three times higher than that of other neighborhoods in the city, she said.

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“It was moving at the September 12th meeting to hear from so many Solo families about how much they love the program,” Wolosin wrote. “This is especially important due to the horrible history of racial segregation and pools in our country.”

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Cameron Rebosio
 
Cameron Rebosio joined the Almanac in 2022 as the Menlo Park reporter. She previously wrote for the Daily Californian and the Palo Alto Weekly. Read more >>

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Team Sheeper's pool contract comes under new scrutiny from Menlo Park City Council

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 26, 2023, 11:47 am

In an unusual move, Mayor Jen Wolosin is bringing Team Sheeper’s new contract to operate the public swimming pools at Burgess Park and the Menlo Park Community Campus back before the Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Team Sheeper’s current contract expires on Sept. 30. At its Sept. 12 meeting, the council approved a new five-year contract with Team Sheeper to continue operating Burgess Pool and take over operations at the new Menlo Park Community Campus (MPCC) pools. The contract included a change, made at the request of competing bidder Solo Aquatics. The contract was approved in a 3-2 vote with Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor and Council member Betsy Nash dissenting.

Mayor Jen Wolosin, who voted for the contract, requested that it be reconsidered by the council, saying in her weekly email that she has felt uneasy since the Spt. 12 meeting and has “some regret” due to the contract's different requirements for Burgess Pool, located near downtown Menlo Park, and MPCC pools, located in the Belle Haven neighborhood east of U.S. Highway 101.

A contingent from Solo Aquatics, which runs swimming programs, voiced concerns about Team Sheeper's contract at the Sept. 12 council meeting, and asked that Solo’s use of Burgess Pool, which has long been part of previous pool contracts, be added as a way to ensure its access can't be withdrawn without city approval.

The Belle Haven neighborhood has a history of segregation and redlining and still faces related issues, Wolosin wrote. The neighborhood has the worst air quality in Menlo Park and the highest rate of asthma among residents, three times higher than that of other neighborhoods in the city, she said.

“It was moving at the September 12th meeting to hear from so many Solo families about how much they love the program,” Wolosin wrote. “This is especially important due to the horrible history of racial segregation and pools in our country.”

Comments

MP Father
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2023 at 12:45 pm
MP Father, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2023 at 12:45 pm

I don't oppose the move by Mayor Wolosin, or perhaps really Council Member Nash, but don't understand the change of heart nor how redlining, segregation, and race apply to the contract? If SOLO was in prior contracts, reasonable protection to preserve seems right.

More importantly though, air quality in Belle Haven is mentioned. That is obviously a very important issue but when I look at AQI figures, the AQI levels show as uniform throughout the city? When I look at the Bay Air Center site it states that the observed PM2.5 concentration levels in Belle Haven were "...were still well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s health standards." What data is Mayor Wolosin or the author looking at?

The link below is to the AQI levels at the time of this submission.

Web Link


Walter Sobchak
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 26, 2023 at 1:28 pm
Walter Sobchak, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2023 at 1:28 pm

Menlo Park is very fortunate to have Tim Sheeper manage its aquatics programs and facilities (since 2006). Think I’m wrong? Try an alternative and see how many things break down.

SOLO has consistently been the “fly in the ointment” of MP’s swim community.


West Menlo Mom
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 26, 2023 at 2:35 pm
West Menlo Mom, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2023 at 2:35 pm

I don't follow ... what does Solo have to do with equity issues between Belle Haven and Burgess? Maybe some more explanation from the reporter would help with this connection?

Team Sheeper runs the Rinconada pool for city of Palo Alto; Palo Alto doesn't seem to have this continual bizarre heartburn (and seemingly almost personal vendetta?) over Team Sheeper managing the pool.

Agree with Walter Sobchak above that Sheeper has done a great job managing both MP and Palo Alto pools and that Solo is consistently the fly in the ointment.


kbehroozi
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 26, 2023 at 4:07 pm
kbehroozi, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2023 at 4:07 pm

Nobody is talking about canceling the Sheeper contract as far as I can tell – this is about whether SOLO should get special treatment as a subcontractor without offering classes citywide.

It emerged during the last meeting that SOLO had been "overlooked" in the contract with Sheeper, and a number of public commenters showed up to speak about how important the SOLO program was to children in our community. There's no love lost between Sheeper and the SOLO team and if council hadn't insisted on adding SOLO back into the contract, it probably would have killed their program.

At the time, Vice Mayor Taylor opined that it would be nice to have SOLO offer their excellent programs in Belle Haven too. SOLO didn't immediately jump at the opportunity, despite having long-standing issues with lane access at the Burgess pool. At the time, the council majority that voted for the Sheeper contract didn't push SOLO to offer programming in both pools.

SOLO since appears to have reconsidered their stance. Web Link

It's reasonable to revisit that discussion, especially given what we know about persistent racial disparities in swim education. Web Link

It is important that the city make high-quality swim instruction accessible to kids in Belle Haven and SOLO should probably be part of the solution.


local teacher
Registered user
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 26, 2023 at 8:56 pm
local teacher, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2023 at 8:56 pm

Thank you to kbehroozi for that extra explanation of what the council discussion was and what SOLO's subsequent response has been. That sounds like a win for community youth.


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