Despite the difficult travel conditions, community members turned out for an emotional meeting on the future of the Kickapoo Schools Aquatic Facility. The pool has been available to the community since its construction in 1966.
“I’m here from Viroqua, with four other people who couldn’t be with me today, and another one who didn’t come because of the snow,” said Christinia Hotchkiss, who lives outside of the district. “Even the greater community is really using this pool.”
Throughout the night people spoke up about just how much this pool has meant to them and felt strongly about the possibility of the lives it may have saved. The pool has reached a state where it can no longer be used without repairs.
A preliminary report and budget for required improvements to the pool and facility was presented on Wednesday, Nov. 28. Four different options and their estimates were given by Joe Bailie, project manager at Delta 3 Engineering, Inc. Delta 3 Engineering, along with District Administrator Douglas Olsen and sub-consultant Badger Swim Pools, reviewed the pool and facility in order to see what would need to be done for the pool to be used again.
The first option was to repair the pool and facility to be put back into service. “Essentially the first option was to be the most cost effective,” Bailie said “what do we have to do to get this pool up running and sustain it.” This would consist of repairing the pool and the facility with a total budgetary price of $272,580. This option will have an expected bi-annual maintenance ranging in cost from $30,000 to $40,000.
The second option was a pool and facility major renovation extending the life expectancy a minimum of 15 years. “A major renovation, let’s make this thing last 15 years,” Bailie said “Spend some money now, get 15 years out of it.” This option is similar to the first but has more repairs in order to extend the life of the pool and facility. “A renovation to a pool that is still 50 years old, so the renovations are good,” said Bailie, “15 years we’re way past the life expectancy. So in 15 years you’re probably back to where you are today.” This option would have a total budgetary price of $754,215.
The third option is a construction of a new pool within the existing pool space that would involve shortening the width, and a major facility renovation.
“It’s a new vessel, the existing mechanicals a lot of the piping that you guys replaced previously is still going to be used. The possibility is we’re still going to use the heater, the pumps, and the filter system,” Bailie said.
The facility improvements and shrinking of the pool is to meet regulatory guidelines. The total budgetary price of this option is $1,276,044, and is the most costly.
When asked about the life expectancy of the pool, Bailie said, “the vessel itself, 50 years, the piping around it, some of that’s been replaced 10 years ago, 40 years. Yeah, you’d get a lot of use out of it, you’d get what you’ve had out of it so far.”
The fourth option would be to decommission the pool and repurpose the space as a gym. “We’re gonna fill it in and we’re gonna repurpose the space to something, in here I used a gymnasium as an option,” Bailie said. This option would result in the removal of the pool and put in a gym floor, basketball hoops, a divider curtain, and wall matting. The total budgetary price of repurposing the space would be $711,480.
“We’re not taxpayers, but I will say that the pool and the fact that our kids were going to have swimming lessons as part of their school curriculum was one of the factors that influenced us to school choicing our kids,” said Cindy Crofton, a parent of children who attended Kickapoo Schools.
A majority of those in attendance were in favor of making the pool operational again, however other perspectives were shared as well.
“I am here with a total open mind, I love the pool, I love that my kids are learning to swim, that is an awesome thing, but I wanted to see what it costs. Either way that the board chooses I am going to accept it and go with it, because with me having the five kids they use these facilities, whether it’s a pool, whether it’s a gym, whether it’s a wrestling mat,” said Tanya Culver, who has children enrolled in Kickapoo Schools. “I am not 100 percent sold on having the pool if it is just going to cost, just be draining to us. We have to make the best decision even if it’s a hard one.”
In a statement, District Administrator Olsen said, “with any pool project, it is not just the initial investment required to build or rebuild the project, it is the ongoing operational costs that must be considered. It was clear to me that the people in attendance at the meeting were there to support the continuing operation of the pool at the Kickapoo School District. The board will need to survey the entire community to understand the priorities of the taxpayers, this process may lead to a referendum. This meeting to discuss the engineering report was Step 1 of a much longer process.”
Olsen encouraged those at the meeting on Wednesday to attend the school board meeting on Dec. 10, where the board will discuss plans going forward.