Schools continue to mull pool

Despite recently announced plans by Sonoma Splash to build a community swimming pool at the site of what was Paul’s Resort, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District hasn’t ruled out building a pool of its own.

At a special meeting last Thursday, Tom Coughlan, a member of the group behind the pool, gave the school board an update.

“Paul’s Resort is a great location, Coughlin said. “It’s the geographic center of the Valley.” And he told the board that it was no more than two miles from any of the district’s schools, although Dunbar School is eight miles away.

Coughlin said the group is aiming for a summer 2016 opening for the pool complex.

“We’ll be able to accommodate all of the needs of Sonoma Valley,” he said. “Our local model is Ives Pool in Sebastopol. That’s run by a nonprofit.”

Sam Coturri, another supporter and Splash member, told the board that the group is close to its $1.5 million goal in order to close on the pool site. And he said, including construction costs, the project would be in the $10-million to $12-million range.

School board president Helen Marsh asked what the estimated operating costs were, and Coughlin told her it was about $150,000 a year.

Marsh told the pool supporters that the school district can’t contribute to any construction costs, but could pay fees for physical education classes. And she wanted to know if the pool was contingent on school district funds.

Coughlin told her it wasn’t contingent on the school district, that the schools could just pay for the services they use.

In response to Marsh’s question about affordability, Coughlin said the aim of the pool was to teach swimming to the underserved.

Coturri said the group is looking at partnerships with community groups and nonpofits, along with what he called “dryland activities,” meaning weddings and events, to help cover costs.

“We have six acres,” Coturri said. “We have room for other potential tenants … for-profits leasing space.”

“But we’re keeping the baseball field,” he added.

Coughlin said preliminary plans call for two pools – one 60-by-75 feet and the other 36-by-50 feet, and there would be eight lanes in the competition pool.

After the pool update, Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese told the board (what there was of it, with Nicole Ducarroz and Gary DeSmet both absent from the five-member body) that if it wanted to continue the pool discussions it would need to schedule some public forums in the fall.

Boardmember Dan Gustafson had a problem with busing kids to PE classes at the Verano Avenue site because it would be about a wash with operating costs at a high school pool. Plus, some of the turnaround times would be very tight.

Boardmember Sal Chavez wanted to know what the cost of a pool at the high school would be, and Frese told him it was in the mid-$3-million range.

Marsh thought the district may want to look at using the Sonoma Splash pool for competition – water polo and swim team. “It’s harder to see for PE classes she said.”

Marsh said she’d like to see a pool that district employees could use too, as well as a general update to the high school athletic facilities.

Frese asked if the board wanted to spend $10,000 to $15,000 to get updated estimates on what a pool would cost at the high school. In 2006, the school district set aside $1.5 million in construction funds.

The board decided to spend the money to see what an updated pool would cost.

In other business, the board, without any public to comment on it, approved the $40.4 million budget for the fiscal year that starts today, July 1.

The board held a public hearing at its June 10 meeting and, again, there was no one from the public left at that point in the meeting to comment.

The board also approved construction contracts for the various projects spread throughout the district this summer.