TERRE HAUTE —
Vigo County school officials are proposing a bond issue to construct a centrally located single swimming pool facility to replace aging pools at three high schools.
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.
“After significant study by the administration, a single site, centrally located facility appears to be the most cost-effective alternative to renovation at all three high school sites,” according to information provided to Vigo County School Board members ahead of their Monday meeting. The Tribune-Star routinely requests a copy of the board packet in advance of scheduled meetings.
The paperwork further states: “After consultations with our financial advisor and bond counsel, the administration would like to move forward with … the project through issuance of general obligation bonds.”
The School Board is expected to vote on whether or not to proceed with a required tax rate impact/preliminary determination hearing for the proposed swim facility.
Under state law, if the school board proposes “to construct, repair or alter a school building at a cost of more than $1 million that would be financed by issuing bonds, the governing body must hold a public hearing at which explanations of the potential value of the proposed project to the school corporation and to the community shall be given and at which interested parties may present testimony and questions.”
Superintendent Danny Tanoos is proposing that public hearing be conducted July 22 during a regularly scheduled school board meeting. The board, under state law, is to discuss and hear objections or support to the proposed construction.
“We are seeking permission from the board so we can continue exploration” on the final costs and details of the swim facility, Tanoos told the Tribune-Star on Friday.
Tanoos said a new swim building could cost between $8 million and $9 million.
“It would take that and more to fix the current pools that we have at their sites. Then you would still have pools that don’t meet today’s swimming standards,” the superintendent said.
The current pools have six swimming lanes, while present swim standards for sectional meets are eight lanes.
“They do not have a diving well, so you can’t swim and dive at the same time. We don’t have proper diving facilities,” Tanoos said. “We don’t have a therapeutic pool, which is for students who are injured.
“It will be so much more economical to maintain one pool instead of three. I think you will have a reduction in utility costs, with lighting that is up to today’s standards instead of 40 years ago, and possibly less employees,” the superintendent said.
“The problem is North and South are over 40 years old, and West likewise,” Tanoos said. “They [pools] are in extreme need of replacement. To replace them in the current locations is nearly impossible. But if we were to do that, we would still end up with pools that do not meet today’s swimming standards for competition,” he said.
Should a new swim facility come to fruition, the three existing pools would be closed and the space re-purposed into classrooms or other uses. Tanoos said the school corporation has to look at a future referendum to fund replacement of heating/cooling systems, repair plumbing issues, expansion of science labs and replacement of inefficient single-pane windows at the three high schools.
“People continue to refer to them as new schools, but they are not,” Tanoos said. “They [North and South] were opened in 1971, with construction beginning in 1968. Any facility that is over 40 years old, especially a school house, they need a lot of renovation and reconstruction.
“That will be our next plan,” said Tanoos, “but first we will address the pool issue.”
A centrally located swim facility, according to the superintendent, could also bring opportunities for swim clubs and swimming events.
Jeff Thompson, who is the swimming coach at Terre Haute South Vigo High School and heads the Terre Haute Torpedoes swim club, said he is part of a project team with school board members who are investigating a swim facility.
Thompson said a 50-meter long pool, known as an Olympic-sized pool, would be 25 yards wide, as yards are the standard competition distance for high school and collegiate events. It would contain 22 swim lanes. That would allow 18 lanes be used for swimmers from the three high schools and the remainder for divers, in a diving well area of the pool.
“I am 100 percent behind it,” Thompson said, “as are North’s coach and West Vigo.”
Costs to replace the existing pools could range from $10 million to $13 million, according to the coach.
Thompson said all schools could train at the same time. The Torpedoes swim club “has done a good job of fostering relationships between the three schools. Outside of the 16 weeks during the high school season, we train together all the time,” he said.
“We may be three separate high schools, but we are one [school] corporation,” he added.
As an example, Thompson said Terre Haute South, which is currently part of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, will allow its pool facility to be used by West Vigo for a Western Indiana Conference meet in the upcoming school year.
“From our standpoint for the Torpedoes, we see a lot of opportunity to grow in terms of allowing more access for more people to take advantage of the great things the aquatic sport has to offer,” said the coach.
Thompson said practices could be concluded earlier in the evening and as a stand-alone facility, it could allow more community use for adult swims and therapeutic uses.
The Vigo County School Board meets at 6 p.m. Monday in the administration building at 686 Wabash Ave. Meetings are open to the public.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.