School district puts pool on hold

After a plea Tuesday night by a group seeking to build a community swimming pool, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board put off a decision on going forward with plans for a new pool at the high school.

In a letter to the board, the group, Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association, asked the board to put off a decision for now – and the board agreed.

According to the group’s letter, “We anticipate a major announcement regarding a pool location before the end of June. Due to the delicate nature of property negotiations, we cannot share any details, only to say that we believe our announcement could impact the school board’s decision tonight.”

Tom Coughlan, a member of the group, told the board that it hopes to have an agreement on a site by the end of June.

“We’re pleased and enthusiastic about a pool at the high school,” he said. “But we’re requesting that you hold off for about six weeks. This could be beneficial – a win-win situation.”

“We’re close to announcing it (a site),” he continued. “And it could be in about six weeks. This would benefit both the school district and the community.”

Coughlan said the construction time would be 18-to-24 months.

Board president Helen Marsh said she didn’t think it would be a problem holding off on a decision until the end of June.

“But we can’t wait any longer for a pool,” she added.

The board received a report from Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese putting the estimated cost of a pool at the high school just shy of $4 million, with annual operating costs estimated at $176,000.

The school district closed and plowed under the previous swimming pool in 2005 because of perceived safety issues and the cost to overhaul the pool which suffered from deteriorating plaster and outdated surfacing, sanitization and filter systems.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

In 2006, the school district set aside $1.5 million in construction funds, and would need to find an additional $2.5 million for pool construction costs.

Frese told the board that one way to finance the pool would be to enter into a lease purchase agreement, which is similar to a secured loan. The payments could be made from developer fees the district received, and would not affect the general fund.

He told the board that while there might be some offsets from additional power the district is generating in its solar power system, it would mostly be used to run the pumps and not to heat the water. The water could be heated though, by running water through tubes.

The proposed pool would be 25-yards wide by 33-meters long, with varying depths of between three-and-a-half- and eight-feet, holding about 800,000 gallons of water.

The pool would include a 30-foot-by-25-foot mechanical building, a 25-foot-by-10-foot storage building and various other items such as a thermal pool cover, overhead lighting and chemical and filtration systems. There would be no diving board.

The estimate broke the cost down to $3.11 million in construction hard costs and $878,000 in soft costs for things such as inspections, architecture fees and construction management.