News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

August 11, 2013

School Board schedules Monday meeting on central pool issue

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Board will conduct a public hearing Monday on the proposed construction of a new, centrally located swimming facility to replace aging pools at the district’s three major high schools.

The project has prompted much discussion, both from those who support it and those who have questions and concerns. The project has strong support from the swimming community.

District officials say swimming pools at Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo and West Vigo high schools are in poor condition and in need of renovation.

The preliminary determination hearing, a necessary legal step in the process, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the administration building, 686 Wabash Ave.

According to the agenda, school officials will review current facilities; describe the curricular need and programming; review the proposed project, cost and financing; and then hear public comment.

“It’s the first step in the process,” said Donna Wilson, VCSC chief financial officer. “It lays out the overall parameters and the dollar threshold, which we can’t exceed,” she said.

The project would be funded through a general obligation bond issue, with the bond issue not to exceed $9.8 million, Wilson said. That figure would include all costs — construction, bond issue costs and “soft” costs.

If the School Board votes to advance the project Monday, there are still several other steps that will have to go before the board. Those include hiring an architect, approving project design and specifications, and awarding a construction contract.

No specific location for the pool has yet been identified publicly, and Superintendent Dan Tanoos could not be reached for comment Thursday. Last month, he said he had been approached by at least six different individuals or entities offering to sell or donate land.

On Thursday, Mayor Duke Bennett indicated there have been preliminary discussions about possibly locating a pool on city-owned property, such as at Voorhees Park. “There have been some very preliminary discussions,” Bennett said.

On Monday, information will be presented on the tax rate impact, which officials say will be neutral because some bond issues will be paid off and go off the tax rate. Wilson said debt-service payments would not kick in until 2016.

Ralph Wagle, president of Garmong Construction, has been a consultant in the pool evaluation process to identify options for the district.

The estimate to completely renovate the school district’s three pools at South Vigo, North Vigo and West Vigo is $11 million. But even with renovation, the pools would still not meet today’s competition standards, officials say.

Constructing three new pools — one at each campus but at locations different than the current pools — would cost about $27 million, Wagle estimated.

Building brand new pools where existing ones are located, but up to today’s standards, was deemed not feasible because it would involve tearing out a cafeteria and/or auditorium.

The administration has recommended that “a single site, centrally located facility appears to be the most cost-effective alternative to renovation at all three high school sites.”

If the School Board on Monday approves resolutions to advance the project, it must publish a notice of its preliminary decision to issue bonds for the project.

The project would be subject to a petition/remonstrance process.

The preliminary determination hearing had been scheduled for July 22, but because of widespread interest, the board instead conducted a detailed presentation attended by more than 300 people. The location for that presentation was Sarah Scott Middle School.

After the district’s two-hour presentation, 26 members of the public spoke — most in favor, with a handful raising questions and concerns.

The pool would be used by high school swimming teams and the Terre Haute Torpedoes swim club. It also would be used for elective high school courses and elementary-level learn-to-swim programs. A small, therapeutic pool could benefit students with physical disabilities, injured student-athletes and even military veterans. Other athletic teams could use the pool for cross-training. Additional uses were identified during the July 22 meeting.

Proponents say the proposed swim facility could provide an economic boost to the community and draw major swimming competitions here.

Those concerned suggest the public wasn’t informed about the pool proposal until late in the process. Others are concerned about the cost, whether all students will be able to use it, and how students would be transported to the pool.

Should a new swim facility come to fruition, the three existing pools would be closed and the space repurposed into classrooms or other uses.

n During the regular board meeting, which will take place after the hearing, the board will be asked to approve advertisement of the proposed 2014 budget.

The board will consider a mileage rate increase for school business travel. The increase would be 2 cents per mile, to 45 cents from 43 cents.

The administration also is recommending that the Western Indiana Community Action Agency Inc., or WICAA, be awarded the contract to provide before- and after-school care for Vigo County School Corp. students in grades K-5 as part of a School Latch Key program.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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