October 16, 2013 - An engineering audit to help determine whether the Truman Middle School swimming pool could be reopened was approved last week by the Lindbergh Schools Board of Education.
Board members voted 6-0 to split the costs equally with the city of Sunset Hills to hire pool consultant Counsilman-Hunsaker & Associates Inc. to perform the audit. Board member Mark Rudoff was absent from the Oct. 8 meeting.
Over the past few months, Lindbergh and Sunset Hills officials have been discussing the possibility of creating an indoor swimming facility, utilizing the Truman pool, which was closed in April 2006.
The school district's cost is not to exceed $3,000, according to Karl Guyer, executive director of planning and development.
Sunset Hills' cost also will not exceed $3,000. Counsilman-Hunsaker and Hastings & Chivetta Architects designed Sunset Hills' Aquatic Facility and Community Center.
The Truman pool was closed "because of the unreliability, age, condition of the equipment and the costs required for a complete renovation," Guyer wrote in a memo to Superintendent Jim Simpson. "While the existing equipment had been maintained and various components replaced periodically since the pool was built, the age, condition of the equipment and frequent operational problems forced the closure to occur. The pool has been considered for renovation, however, other critical projects have been pursued."
Regarding the possible reopening of the pool, Guyer wrote, "Lindbergh is excited about the possibility of giving back to the community through an all-season pool, which would be a huge quality-of-life upgrade and an extremely minimal cost to taxpayers. In addition, Truman students would be able to use the facility for swimming during physical education classes and competitive swim clubs have expressed an interest in renting the facility for practices and competitions."
At the Oct. 8 meeting, Guyer said, "This is a simple process to take only a first step to document in detail the requirements needed to renovate the pool. This is a first step and does not commit the Lindbergh board for any other costs or commitments. This is a partnership with Sunset Hills and Lindbergh that can help a great number of people — the community. This is an area that could be open seven days a week and serve both students and community members ..."
In response to a question from board member Kate Holloway, he said, "There would need to be a separate area to allow community people to come in and use the pool facility, separate from the student locker rooms, much like we have on the high school campus, where we have two separate sets of locker area ... We would need that kind of separation for our kids at that location ..."
He later elaborated, "This is just simply to establish what would be the requirements in order to make the pool, as is, a viable (facility), get it back up and operating. If there are some additional pieces separate from the pool whereby Sunset Hills wants to establish a separate entrance, lockers, all of that aspect, that is separate and apart from what this study will involve, and those costs are separate and apart from the renovation of the pool itself."
In his memo, Guyer outlined some of those other costs, writing, "The city of Sunset Hills is also exploring the idea of constructing a public entrance, parking lot, sidewalks and separate locker rooms."
As for why the pool space at Truman cannot be used for classrooms, Guyer wrote, "The Truman pool is currently in great disrepair. In previous years, Lindbergh has conducted an extensive analysis of the pool area and found that it would be less expensive to build new classrooms than it would be to convert the current pool space to classrooms.
"Working alone, we do not have sufficient funding to renovate or repair the pool, which is why forming a partnership to serve the community makes so much sense."
Simpson told the board, "... Sunset Hills is wanting to be a model partner ... (Sunset Hills Parks and Recreation Director) Gerald Brown stated whatever our students need was first priority. As Karl has said, this is simply what does it cost? What do you have to do to put it together? You need this engineering study in order to apply for a grant Ö You need hard data to apply for a grant.
"Our second step — every step to be approved by both this board and also Sunset Hills — is to apply for a grant. There are funds available through the sales tax for county parks, and so we intend to apply for a grant to get as much of this paid for by a grant."
If the project is completed, both the school district and Sunset Hills would share maintenance costs on a 50-50 basis, according to the superintendent.
"... If it comes to fruition, it's a win for the patrons of our school district because Sunset Hills will certainly let other people use (the pool), probably at a little higher cost like all community centers do — maybe $3 for Sunset Hills people, $5 if you don't live in Sunset Hills. Then for our students, they'll get all the use that we need out of it.
"And then also, as you know, we are a very active region for swimming and the swim clubs and FAST (Flyers Aquatic Swim Team) being the No. 1. And so FAST is involved in two of our pools now and they've told us they would love to be able to add a third because they have so many students who would like to do this ..."
If the next step is taken, an application for the grant would be made next spring, the superintendent told the board.
"... If we're fortunate, we'll get a large amount paid for by that (a grant) and we'll have an upgrade in the quality of life in our school system and in our community ...," Simpson said.
Board President Kathleen Kienstra said she liked the collaborative aspect of the proposal.
"... A collaboration among communities with the schools is a great thing. It's really positive for the community and it really makes those people who use it even greater stakeholders in our schools, whether or not they have children in the district," she said.
Noting the engineering audit is the first step of the process, Sunset Hills Mayor Bill Nolan told the Call, "So there's no commitment on the part of Sunset Hills or Lindbergh to build it. This is the commitment to find out what it would cost."
The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen has authorized the city's participation in the study, he said.
Having an indoor pool available to residents year-round would be a great benefit, according to the mayor.
"... For us to be able to have an indoor pool available to our citizens in Sunset Hills would be a very, very, very nice amenity — something that unfortunately the budget wouldn't allow us to include in the Community Center," Nolan said.