The pending closure of Milton High School’s 55-year-old pool is not a ploy to pass a referendum, district officials say.

The timing is unfortunate, but the pool’s problems “should come as a surprise to no one,” Superintendent Tim Schigur told The Gazette.

The district announced last week the pool will close March 1—or sooner if its HVAC system gives out before then.

While the flagging system expedited the pool’s pending closure, a report by Ramaker and Associates released last spring identified a raft of problems the pool would need to address within five years that, if left untouched, might’ve resulted in the pool closing anyway.

The report, officials say, is the most recent indicator of pool needs after nearly a decade of concern for the facility.

If a $59.9 million referendum passes in April, the district will build a new pool, but it would take a few years to build, Schigur said.

The district could repair the current pool to bridge the gap, but planning would have to start now to get the pool operational for next school year, Schigur said.

The current pool would be refurbished into new space as part of the referendum, meaning the HVAC system and other fixes would have to happen no matter what. They are already budgeted for in the referendum plan.

If the referendum does not pass, the board will have to find another way to pay for an estimated $1.2 million in repairs to squeeze another five to 10 years of operation out of the pool, according to the report.

Pool problems

The Gazette asked district administrators to further explain the pool’s pending closure:

How is the HVAC system broken? Bearings inside the system are getting noisier by the day, a sign they are reaching the end of their lives, Schigur said.

Air vents are “seizing up” and degrading from corrosion. Cables that open and shut vents to adjust air flow have almost entirely corroded, meaning the vents do not work on their own, Schigur said.

Maintenance staff has been manually opening and closing vents multiple times a day, Schigur said.

When the school was built in 1963, the HVAC system was placed and then walls went up around it, Schigur said.

Surrounding walls would have to come down to access and replace the system, Schigur said.

Can the pool stay open if the HVAC system is the only fix the district makes? The Ramaker report estimated HVAC replacement would cost $167,000.

The district is determining the bare minimum fixes needed to keep the pool open and is expected to present them to the school board Monday, Schigur said.

While the HVAC system is a primary concern, other needs have to be met to keep the pool running.

In May 2018, the Rock County Public Health Department noted two violations at the pool during a routine check.

The first was for gutters not effectively skimming water; the second was for frayed and inadequate rope on a buoy, according to department documents.

The district has to show the county that actions have been taken to address the violations within one year. Administrators are now determining what fixes have to be done to address the issues and at what cost, Schigur said.

If the district fixes only the HVAC system, other problems listed in the Ramaker report could eventually force the pool to close, Schigur said.

Not a surprise

The district performed a study in 2008 that indicated the pool needed major repairs, according to previous Gazette reporting.

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

Current administrators have echoed what Nikolay said 10 years ago.

Results from a 2011 survey showed the community was split on whether to build a new pool, which would have been done in conjunction with the Parker YMCA.

Director of Admi- nistrative Operations Jerry Schuetz said the district’s last two referendums would have solved the pool’s problems, but residents voted down those questions for various reasons.

Past school boards decided not to pour money into the current pool because the community might still want to build new, Schuetz said.

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