News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 22, 2013

School board approves pool location

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — By a 6-0 vote, the Vigo County School Board approved Voorhees Park as the site for a new $9.8 million VCSC Aquatics Center, pending approval by the Terre Haute Parks Board.

The center, to be funded with a bond issue, would replace aging pools at the district’s three major high schools.

Superintendent Dan Tanoos anticipates the district will make a presentation to the parks board next month.

In one vote, the School Board approved other items that advance the pool project:

• Garmong Construction Services as the construction manager;

• CSO Architects of Indianapolis as the architect that will design the new aquatic center;

• an additional appropriation so that the district would have authority to spend bond proceeds after the bonds are sold in the spring.

Tanoos said the next step is to work with CSO Architects, which will make a presentation to the district pool committee. Mayor Duke Bennett will be invited.

“In my opinion, the aquatics center will add a lot of vibrancy to that area,” Tanoos said after the meeting. “The way we are looking at designing it, with maybe a boulevard entrance into the area, will really beautify the park. It could spark some revitalization in that area of town.”

During the meeting, board member Jackie Lower asked about soil samples at the park, and Tanoos told her there is nothing to indicate a problem.

He also said there will be enough room at the 11-acre site for both the existing skate park and playground to expand.

Lower also asked about parking. The site would require at least 200 parking spaces, said Brian Kooistra, vice president with Garmong Construction Services. With the hiring of CSO, “We’ll begin to look at parking needs and requirements,” Kooistra said.

In a public comment period before the board action, two citizens — Pat Goodwin and Brian Lakstins — disagreed with the choice of Voorhees Park and offered separate sites they believed would be better.

Goodwin believes Voorhees “is a pretty poor location.” It isn’t centrally located; access is not good; the school district doesn’t own it; and it will be near where the Terre Haute sanitary district is proposing to put a lagoon for combined wastewater and stormwater.

Goodwin proposed Terre Haute North Vigo High School as a site for the aquatics facility; he said the school has the space, adequate parking and it could accommodate the traffic. He also suggested the site at 13th and Hulman streets, where an environmental cleanup should be completed within 30 days.

Lakstins suggested a competition pool at one of the high schools and to allow the two other high schools to keep pools for practices only. He suggested that for northsiders, the Voorhees location will be time-consuming and expensive in transportation costs.

In other matters, the board agreed “to reduce hours for employees affected by the Affordable Health Care Act. This change reduces hours worked, but not the gross weekly pay,” according to information provided to the board.

The board also agreed to increase hourly wages so that workers’ pay remains the same. In some cases, workers with two part-time VCSC jobs —  such as instructional assistant and coach — will no longer be able to do both to stay within the work-hour limits.

Tanoos said the changes will take place immediately because of a “lookback” period. (The federal government looks back one year to determine employee work hours.)

ACA mandates that employers provide health insurance to all employees who work more than 30 hours per week, considered “full-time” under the law (but part-time by the school district) — or pay a penalty.

As a result, many school corporations that employ part-time workers — such as instructional aides, health aides, bus drivers and cafeteria workers — are reducing the hours of those employees.

By limiting work hours, the district is not required to provide the employees with insurance, and the employees can get insurance through a government-provided exchange, or marketplace. Districts then don’t have to pay a penalty.

Many districts, including Vigo, say they can’t afford to provide those employees with insurance; Tanoos has estimated it would cost the district $6 million to $8 million more per year — money it doesn’t have.

The penalties would cost $3 million to $4 million more per year; neither can the  district afford that, he said.

Tanoos said Friday that reduction of hours will be disruptive, and it will cost the district “extra money to cover hours for employees when they leave their jobs.”

Tanoos has said the real problem lies with an Internal Revenue Service ruling. Initially under the federal health care law, those employees’ work hours could be averaged over a calendar year, including summer break — which put VCSC under the 30-hour per week average.

But the IRS rewrote that part of the health care rules, he said. Now, districts can factor in only breaks that are two weeks or less, and not summer break. That put Vigo County and other districts over the 30-hour-per week average for those employees.

In other action, the board approve a 2-percent health insurance rate increase for 2014.

Tanoos also stated that the school board has asked him to work closely with the Vigo County Library Board “to show our support for keeping the West Terre Haute library branch open.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235.