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Supervisors dive in to aquatic center funding discussion

Board expresses reluctance about using county General Fund money to help with planned aquatic center at San Benito High School
Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz said money for an aquatic center cannot come from the county's General Fund.
Supervisor Robert Rivas described the project as low-hanging fruit that the county should pursue.

Shawn Tennenbaum, director of human resources and interim superintendent of the San Benito High School District, on April 11 discussed with the county board of supervisors recent and future improvements to the high school, including a possible partnership for building a new aquatic facility. Tennenbaum started his remarks by thanking voters who recently supported the Measure G and U bonds that will fund special education classrooms, athletic facilities and restrooms. He said the district is committed to taking care of students today and in the future through a modernized facility.

He explained that throughout the coming summer, campus classrooms will be modernized and be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

“Another area we’re looking at is special education expansion,” he said. “We are the only high school in the county that houses our severely handicapped population, so it is a great need for us in moving forward.”

He described a new staff lounge that will have multiple portals for laptop computers and big screen television to allow the staff to work on presentations. He also said planning for the temporary closing of Nash Road is underway to protect some 11,000 student crossings during a typical school day. There will be a new ag building in the center of the campus that will have a student union conversion next to Nash.

“There’ll be a student union with a new kitchen, as well as all ASB (Associated Student Body) and athletics for a one-stop shopping for mom, dad and students, with a nice feel to it,” he said. “Once Nash Road is closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., we’ll have a nice walkway and thoroughfare for our students and staff to travel safely.”

Tennenbaum said the voter-approved bonds providing funding for a state-of-the-art science building with 12 classrooms that have both wet and dry laboratories to accommodate physics, chemistry and biology studies. There will also be another 12-classroom building for future student growth.

“It will be able to house up to 360 to 400 students that we anticipate coming to the high school in a few years,” he said. “We’re also looking at making sure we’re current with our physical education, as well as athletic facilities.”

He said the board is also looking carefully at the area south of Nash Road.

“We have a science building, a growth building and a new greenhouse with an orchard going in that would be an outdoor area for our students to continue the ag science development,” Tennenbaum said as he pointed out increased parking off the new bypass road that will be constructed south of campus, along with a new synthetic turf field for softball and baseball.

“With the stadium renovation, we’re looking to upgrade the entire football field and track with synthetic turf, as well as an all-weather track,” he said. “But right in the heart of that is an opportunity for us to partner with Hollister for an aquatics center.”

The district has submitted a request for qualifications to solicit architectural services for a 50-meter Olympic-size pool, as well as a learn-to-swim pool for students, athletes and the community. A recreational facility is also being considered, after district officials looked at pools at Carmel High School, Grant High School in Sacramento, and Reedley High School in Reedley.

“The first thing everyone told us is that they didn’t build enough pool,” Tennenbaum said. “As soon as Reedley High School partnered with their community, it became the crown jewel of that city as far as athletics, recreation and a healthy lifestyle. So, our goal is to work with the county board and the city for aquatics for all members of the community.”

The district has plenty of land that gives it the opportunity to build a strong vision for the community, Tennenbaum told the board.

“We are committed to building two pools and what we would like to do is to build a full aquatic center for all the residents,” he said.

Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz said the bottom line is where the money to pay for the aquatic center will come from.

“We have a long list of issues,” he said. “It’s an endless number of items we’re trying to fulfill. I will support this idea as long as it ain’t coming from the General Fund. It has to be some other funding mechanism.”

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said the county is committed to funding a regional park that will be located south of the new bypass road that will run behind the football stadium from San Benito Street and loop around to Nash Road past West Street.

“My understanding is that we would put together the land and then a nonprofit would come in and do the infrastructure,” he said and added that he agreed with De La Cruz that the county would not be able to fund the aquatic center. “This needs to be a public-private partnership. I have not seen any private participation in this, as of yet. If I’m to support this, I definitely need to see significant participation of private funds.”

Supervisor Robert Rivas said he had no problem using General Fund or any other monies for a project that would benefit the community. He said he has heard from his students at Gavilan College that there is little to do in town.

“There’s this huge recreational gap in our community for the youth, and even for adults,” he said. “Our goal is to build the regional park, but common sense tells us to reach for that low-hanging fruit. This is low-hanging fruit. If it’s going to cost us a little bit of money to establish these recreational partnerships, we have to go after that.”

Supervisor Mark Medina wondered how much money the city and county would receive in sales taxes from the facility. He also said that he doesn't want the money to come from the county's General Fund.

“If I was to take $4 million out of the General Fund, it would be for roads,” he said. “If the roads aren’t there, how are people going to get to the aquatic center?”

Medina also wondered what percentage of the county’s population would ultimately use the center.

“If we have a limited amount of money, we need to make sure that money works for everyone,” he said.

Tennenbaum thanked the supervisors for their comments and requested the opportunity to come back before them with an agenda item to delve into some of their concerns. He said the high school district is committed to build partnerships, adding that it can’t develop the project by itself.

De La Cruz said the Measure U bond would pay for two swimming pools, regardless of what the city and county might do, and that the aquatic center would be for the general public, rather than the students. He recommended that when Tennenbaum appears again before the board that he bring a proposed budget for the initial investment, as well as ongoing expenses.

“It has to be self-sustaining,” De La Cruz said. “We know there’s a nonprofit group that’s trying to raise the money, but they have to bring their budget to show what they expect year-to-year accounting to be.”

Medina said he had conversations with the nonprofit that is working on behalf of an aquatic center and believes the facility would be self-sustaining and that the city and county would not have to pay for maintenance and staff, which would be covered by facility entry fees.

The board decided not to take any immediate action while waiting for Tennenbaum to come back before it at a future date.

About:
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

Award-winning photojournalist. Published in magazines, newspapers, radio/TV, websites. BA in Mass Communications from Chapman University. Graduate studies at USC Cinema School. Wrote or doctored more than 30 movie screenplays. Script, "God's Club," released March 2016. Wrote eight novels, ranging from thrillers to horror with most recent, "The Ghost of the U-85."

Comments

Submitted by Valerie Egland (valerie egland) on

The discussions about swimming pools, aquatic center, swimming competency and public recreation have gone on for years.  A school facility gets heavy use most of the year, but  Public swimming education needs to continue when not being used by children.  These facilities, however, do need strict use rules in order to maintain integrity and sanitation.  

An aquatic center was proposed for the Regional Park, with the expectation that private enterprise would do the building and maintenance.  The Hollister Aquatic group gave a good presentation to the Hollister Parks and Rec last year. Speaking of its vision as a competitive swim venue, as well as public recreational center for the county, and it seemed to be self-sustaining.  

Although we'd all like to see the funding feasibility work through the public/private avenues, it will be awhile.  The public frustration with the burdensome processes and negotiations weighs heavy on the hope of fulfillment in the community.  Even Monterey County has to give way to Concessionaires to maintain their Arroyo Secca facility. Nothing is simple, but there are corporations out there that build aquatic/water park centers that perhaps the county should look into. The payback down the road in community health, recreation and Tourism could be enormous. Cities and counties that create great parks see big pay backs economically.

Let's keep our eye on the pie as we listen to all the possibilities. Red Cross swimming lessons at Bolado Park aren't coming back.

 

I am concerned about the lack of a professional feasibility study and a comprehensive business plan, both of which must be in place before you can even decide on how much capital you really need or whether it can be self-supporting,

The interim solution would be to build the High School pool (which is funded with approved bond money) in a location that would allow the development of an integrated aquatic center near it or around it in the future and then go shopping for a private developer experienced in the business.  At least get a good professional  feasibility study by a firm who knows this sector.

(Added) I have no problem floating a "concept" so people can get used to the idea and they can check reaction, but you do not want to have to come back right off the bat and say we need more money or we have to scale it back, etc.  That is why you need a feasibility study.

Location, location, location.

Marty Richman 

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