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Milton School District plans survey on proposal for new swimming pool

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
December 6, 2010
— While myriad questions surround the future of the Milton School District's aging swimming pool, officials are planning a community survey that could help answer one big query: Would Milton residents support a new swimming pool at the planned Crossridge Park YMCA?

The school district has been grappling over whether to build a new pool or spend as much as $1 million on structural and mechanical repairs a 2008 district study says are necessary to keep the pool functional.


The issue is not new. The school district and YMCA of Northern Rock County have had sporadic talks over a possible partnership in a new pool, most recently in 2009.


At the time, the district was planning a referendum for a new high school, and the Y was working on plans for a new full-service facility at Crossridge Park on Milton's southeast side.


Both groups were trying to determine whether a shared pool at Crossridge Park would be feasible.


Now, the Y still is planning a facility at Crossridge Park, but growth in the district has slowed and plans for a new high school have been pushed back at least three years, officials have said.


For the district, the specter of repairs for the district's 46-year-old pool hasn't gone away. The district says repairs to the pool's deck and lining are needed within the next two years and that work alone could cost $600,000, according to 2008 estimates.


"I think everybody can say the pool has been well maintained and serviced. But without significant money put into to it, it's nearing the end of its useful expected life," Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said.


While Nikolay and YMCA CEO Tom Den Boer say there are no formal plans for a partnership on a pool, the school district and the Y agreed last month to split the $8,400 cost of a survey that, in part, would poll residents on their interest in a new pool.


Officials haven't said when the survey would go out, but it will be mailed to residents with an option to complete it online, Nikolay said.


Under one plan being discussed, the school district would pay for construction of a new pool facility at Crossridge Park, with the Y possibly taking over staffing and maintenance, Nikolay said.


He said that arrangement would cost the district up front, but it could save $250,000 a year in operating costs.


There are no estimates on what the project could cost, although an earlier district study said construction of a new pool could cost $4.4 million. Nikolay said if the district paid to build a new pool, the project likely would need to be approved through a referendum.


Nikolay said district officials hope the pool survey will show whether taxpayers want a new pool—particularly one that's removed from the high school.


"Before we'd go to a referendum, we'd certainly like to gauge sentiment in the community toward that key issue. A survey might tell us there's no way it would fly in the community, and we'd have to come up with another solution," Nikolay said.


Meanwhile, the Y needs at least $5 million to start work on the planned Crossridge Park facility, and groundbreaking for the project likely won't happen for 12 to 18 months, Den Boer said.


Under a land purchase agreement, the Y must start work at Crossridge Park by 2013, or the city has the option to buy back the property.


Den Boer said the Y is planning the Crossridge Park facility whether or not the school district partners on a new pool. He said the YMCA could opt to build a pool itself, although that's not a part of initial plans.


Officials have no formal plans on the size or design of a new pool, but Den Boer said talks include a full-service aquatic center plus a full-size pool.


At minimum, Nikolay said the district would like an eight-lane pool. The current pool's six-lane capacity is too small for the district to host large swim tournaments, officials have said.


Nikolay said the pool survey could serve to poll residents on future use of the current pool, and whether residents would want more than one indoor pool.


Plans are for Milton High School to be converted to a middle school when the district builds a new high school, officials say.


But mainly, Nikolay said, the survey would assess how residents feel about a shared-use pool.


"It's more a philosophy about having a school pool somewhere other than a school. That's the biggest question with community support," Nikolay said.


In order to share a pool, the district and the Y would need a use agreement to balance school and public swim times, officials said. Den Boer said none of those details have been worked out.


Nikolay said he believes a shared pool would offer improved accessibility.


Although the current pool has early morning public swim time, it's closed to the public during school hours.


Nikolay said when the pool's not being used for school and club swim practices, it often sits idle.


Still, Nikolay said the district has concerns that a pool at Crossridge Park would be inconvenient for students who'd need transportation for after school swim practices. Crossridge Park is a mile from the high school.


Nikolay said difficulties scheduling transportation and pool time at a shared pool also could mean the elimination of high school swimming classes.



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