In his proposed budget, Alaska Governor Michael Dunleavy has suggested selling the new, $26 million Mt. Edgecumbe High School Aquatics center, which has yet to open its doors to the public. The budget also cuts $250,000 in operating funds previously approved for the center.
The move has been opposed by Sitka Senator Bert Stedman, who believes revenue generated by the facility will outweigh the costs, and MEHS Superintendent Janelle Vanasse, who believes the pool is an important asset for the school.
According to Vanasse, the pool provides MEHS students with an important opportunity for swimming instruction, especially in an area that reports high rates of drowning. “Many, many, many of our students come from rural communities that are on the water, but very dangerous water — Not the kind of water that you grow up in recreationally swimming.”
Sen. Stedman had been working toward the realization of the MEHS Aquatics Center for more than eight years when the facility broke ground in 2016. He is not shy about his opposition to the governor’s new budget, saying, “They can sell the pool with me in it when they sell the governor’s mansion with him in it.”
According to Alaska Public Media, Stedman is confident that the current operating budget will allow the state to roll funds for the pool forward into 2020, giving the facility a chance to start generating revenue to offset the operating costs.