School pool resurfaces

The possibility of building a new swimming pool at Sonoma Valley High School resurfaced again.

The district will update estimated construction and operating costs and bring the item back for more information at the May school board meeting. The latest cost estimates the district has are six years old. At that time, in 2008, a pool that was 25 yards by 33 meters, and that would accommodate high school water polo and swimming, USA short course swimming, instructional swimming and recreational swimming, was pegged at $2.8 million.

The school district closed and plowed under the previous swimming pool in 2005 because of perceived safety issues and the cost to overhaul the facility, which suffered from deteriorating plaster and outdated surfacing, sanitization and filter systems. A report on the pool also found 12 violations of various state and federal codes, some of which were safety hazards

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese told the board he thinks construction costs have gone up in the six years since the last estimate.

The district has $1.5 million set aside for a pool. The money is in funds that can only be used for construction projects.

“We can’t use Measure H funds for the pool,” Frese told the board, referring to the $40 million school bond voters approved in 2010.

Frese said the pool would go in where the previous pool was on the high school grounds because the infrastructure – water connections and electricity – and locker rooms are already at the site.

He said the school’s photovoltaic system wouldn’t cover the electricity costs, but the district could still use solar to heat the water.

“We’re generating excess electricity at the high school but that wouldn’t cover the entire use,” he said. “I’d estimate it would cover half to two-thirds of the electricity.”

And, he said, a pool could be in the ground by the 2015-16 school year.

Needless to say, the school board was enthusiastic, as were the four remaining members of the audience – three of whom were at the meeting because of the pool.

Board president Helen Marsh was on the board when it was bulldozed. “I found out by reading the Index-Tribune that the pool was being bulldozed,” she said. “That was egregious. There’s a critical need for a pool.”

Marsh wanted to know if the pool would be a school pool or a community pool. “That’s where we got stuck last time (in 2008),” she said. “We need a report on what it would look like if we go it alone.”

“I want to move forward,” she continued. “I don’t want this discussion to stall. We need to find out what the PE and water sports teams need and the costs … then we can see where the common ground lies.”

Three members of the Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association, a private group trying to build a community pool, encouraged the board to move forward.

Tom Coughlan, a member of the pool group, said the organization is looking at a couple of sites for a pool but would be happy to work with the school district. Kathleen Hill, another member of the group, said they’d like to see a community pool, but would like to see the district and pool organization work together.

Kathleen Hawing, SVHS principal, said she was supportive of a pool on campus. But she cautioned the board that, currently, the school doesn’t have a master site plan.

“What else goes back there?” she asked. “We need input from the other stakeholders.”

“You don’t just plop a pool down without thinking about the rest of the facility,” Hawing said.

In a report to the board, Frese said the 2008 report estimated yearly costs to be in the $90,000 to $100,000 range for things such as electricity, gas, chemical treatment and water. And that doesn’t include the cost of maintenance.

Frese’s report said that it could take a half-time employee to maintain the pool. “Some staff time will be needed,” the report said. “Either an additional staff member would need to be hired, or existing staff would need to be given time to address these needs.”

Frese also said the district would have to address long-term maintenance issues, as well as lights and bleachers for sporting events.

Frese will report back to the board with updated costs at its May meeting.