Aquatic center tweaking continues to bring cost down
SNOHOMISH - The plan is still to build a new aquatic center inside the city, but the Snohomish School Board will know more about the future of the pool when detailed design plans are finished.
The school board last week unanimously agreed to begin work on a more detailed design for the aquatic center.
No plans are in the works at this time to move the aquatic center outside the city, Superintendent Bill Mester said last week. Some thought was given by the district last year to move the pool outside city limits when a financial analysis showed the aquatic center would cost more to operate than it would bring in revenue.
In the meantime, the district continued looking at ways to tweak the design to save money. The design has seen significant changes in recent weeks, as discussions continue on how to build and operate the center within budget.
The biggest change so far is the location, which is still within city limits at the old Freshman Campus, now called the Maple Avenue Campus.
The siting change recently adopted by the school board moves the aquatic center from the back of the Maple Avenue Campus to the front of the campus, and from the west side to the east.
This part of the campus has an even grade, which will allow the pool to be built all on one level, rather than having a basement level, Mester said.
This move will save in both operational and construction costs, he said.
“It was originally scheduled to go in back of the gymnasium and cafeteria, and now it’s going to go where the classrooms are,” he said. On the back of the property, “the land drops off,” and as a result the original design put some of the mechanical systems in the basement.
With everything on one level, “our architect thinks we’ll save on construction costs, but also there could be some energy savings, some space savings, so that’s the exercise we’re going through right now,” Mester said.
The plans now include a 2-foot-deep area in the main pool, which will allow the district to offer swim lessons for toddlers, Mester said.
“We didn’t have a space for that before,” he said. “There wasn’t going to be a 2-foot shallow area.”
“All of the changes we have made, including adding a shallow-water pool and re-siting the facility on a different section of the Maple Avenue Campus property, are intended to bring operational and construction savings or bring additional revenues to the project,” he said.
One last change that has emerged in recent weeks is to incorporate the wellness pool into the lanes of the main pool, Mester said.
This will cut out the need to heat and operate a separate wellness tank, he said.
Last week, the school board voted to move the pool from the “schematic design” phase to the “design development” stage.
This is a more detailed design phase, Mester said.
“That’s when we’ll do an analysis of the energy costs and the cost of construction one more time and that’s when we’ll be able to make a conclusion about what the costs are to operate and build the building. That’s when we can make the decision to go forward,” Mester said.
The original estimate for the aquatic center was $22 million and included three pools, one of them a competition Olympic-sized pool with 10 lanes that would be 25 yards long, bleachers for 420 spectators, locker rooms, family changing rooms and a water slide. The analysis found the project would fall short between $450,000 and $550,000 in revenue to run the pool.
This project was part of a 2008 bond package.
City officials balked last year at the idea of the pool being built outside the city, as the pool would bring construction tax and other revenues to the city, as well as provide a recreational resource for residents.
The City Council responded to talks of moving the pool to county land with a letter promising to help pay the pool’s water and sewer bill.
The city paid the water and sewer bill for the district’s former Hal Moe Pool as well, City Manager Larry Bauman said.
“There were some different terms and features, but it was basically the same concept that the city would contribute water and sewer costs to support the recreational facility,” Bauman said.
Although the district has engaged in informal talks with county representatives, it appears there have been no serious thoughts of moving the pool.
“We haven’t looked at any other site yet, we’ve just looked at this within the city,” Mester said last week.
“We’ve always believed that locating the Aquatic Center within the city of Snohomish would be of benefit to our community. Whether it be through swimming lessons, water therapy, competitive swimming or recreational swimming, the Aquatic Center would offer tremendous opportunities for our community and the kids in our district,” he said in an e-mail.
Early last year, some neighbors of the Maple Avenue Campus spoke out against the traffic the aquatic center would bring to the area. The city and school district held a public meeting last February to discuss the parking and traffic impacts.
“We are continuing to develop plans to help ensure that there is adequate available parking at the Aquatic Center,” Mester wrote last week.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published Jan. 18, 2012