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October 20, 2013

School board to consider pool plan

Administration eyes Voorhees Park; would require parks board OK

TERRE HAUTE — On Monday, the Vigo County School Board will be asked to approve Voorhees Park as the site for a new VCSC Aquatic Center, pending further approval by the Terre Haute Parks Board.

The administration says it has reviewed numerous properties within Vigo County for potential placement of the center, and Voorhees Park stands out as the best site.

On Friday, Superintendent Dan Tanoos said the administration plans to make a presentation to the city parks board next month.

The $9.8 million facility, which will be funded through a bond issue, would replace aging pools at the district’s three high schools.

Preliminary plans call for a swimming center that would be 30,000 square feet. It would house a 25-yard-by-50-meter pool to accommodate swimming and diving; a small therapeutic pool for physical therapy and rehabilitation; seating for 300 to 500 spectators; and space for lockers, offices, concession and storage areas.

In a letter to the mayor and parks department, Tanoos has proposed a 99-year land lease with the city and Parks Board, with $1 rent “for the term thereof.”

The goal would be to have the facility completed for the 2015-16 school year, Tanoos has stated previously. The district hopes to award contracts in late spring or early summer 2014.

While the city needs additional information from the district about the proposed footprint of the facility and parking lot, Mayor Duke Bennett has spoken favorably about the proposal, which would require about eight acres out of the 11-acre park.

Bennett would like to see development in that area, and use of city property means no privately-owned property would be taken off the tax rolls.

The School Board will be asked to take other action related to the proposed pool:

n It will be asked to approve Garmong Construction Services as the construction manager;

n It will be asked to approve CSO Architects of Indianapolis as the architect that will design the new aquatic facility.

In other action, the board will be asked to approve an additional appropriation so that the district has authority to spend bond proceeds after the bonds are sold.

The bond sale is expected to take place in the spring.

In other matters, the administration is asking for approval “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 will be asked 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 or pay a penalty. That number of hours is considered “full-time” under ACA (but part-time by the school district)

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. Also, the 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, which the district also can’t afford, 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.”

If an employee must stop working one or two hours earlier, someone else must still work those hours.

He believes it will adversely affect some special education students. Those students might be used to one instructional aide and feel comfortable with that person.

Now, that aide will have to stop working an hour or two earlier and a different aide will have to complete the day, someone the student may not feel as comfortable around.

In other action, the board also will be asked to approve a 2-percent health insurance rate increase for 2014.

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

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