Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Berthoud trustees ask TSD to help fund indoor pool

May 02, 2019 | Education

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

Anytime a governmental body takes in more money tha it had expected, a litany of requests come pouring in for how to spend those extra dollars.

This is currently the case with Thompson School District (TSD) which has $34.8 million in excess monies from the sale of the bonds from ballot issue 5B that was approved by voters last November. The bonds and their corresponding interest payments were sold at a premium, thanks to lower than predicted interest rates, which brought in the extra funds.

Currently, TSD has a wide array of options on how to spend that nearly $35 million more than they were expecting. One of those options would be to provide $4.5 million to the Town of Berthoud to provide a competitive-level indoor pool at the proposed recreation center that is to be built at Waggener Farm Park at the southeast corner of Berthoud Parkway (formerly County Road 17) and Bunyan Avenue.

Because of the language of the bond measure, the district is only allowed to use the funds generated on a specific list of issues related to capital construction and infrastructure, the premium included.

Already allocated is $10.8 million of the $34.8 million bond premium for the refurbishment of Loveland’s Stansberry and Van Buren Elementary schools to repurpose the facilities as an early childhood and career and technical education centers, respectively. 

It is a portion of the remaining $24 million the town is after. At a joint meeting held last Wednesday at Berthoud High School (BHS) between the Berthoud Board of Trustees and TSD, the predominant focus of the hour-long confab centered on TSD kicking in $4.5 million to enclose the pool at the rec center and make it competition-ready.

At the meeting, Town Administrator Chris Kirk went over the design plans for the rec center development at Waggener with TSD board members, detailing the indoor rec center as well as outdoor sport courts and multi-purpose fields that are planned as part of the development in the northwestern side of the park. As Kirk pointed out, “We don’t have any gym space; we rely entirely on the school district for gymnasium space … I think as the community continues to grow there is going to be more demands on your facilities as well as ours.”

Speaking of the pool itself that is currently part of the design plans, Kirk said, “What we were intending was a four-lane lap pool, mostly for exercise programming and recreational lap swimming … but the intent was not to build enough flat water to hold competitions,” pointing to the additional expense such a plan would require. “We wanted to focus our dollars on the recreational and lifestyle amenities that drive membership and usage of the facility.”

From the initial four-lane outdoor pool concept in the plans to make the pool useable for competitions would require an additional two lap lanes, separating the lap lanes from the recreational pool, thereby creating two bodies of water and providing the enclosure to make the pool useable year-round would cost the estimated $4.5 million.

If TSD was to provide the $4.5 million to enclose the pool and make it suitable for competition, it could be used by the BHS girls swimming and diving team, thereby satisfying the requirement the funds from the bond are used for school-specific infrastructure purposes.

Building an indoor pool with 25-yard lanes and a diving area would provide the BHS girls team, and perhaps one day a corresponding BHS boys team, the ability to practice and host meets in their hometown. The rest of the year the pool could be used by residents of the town.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jeff Hindman noted he suspects an indoor pool would get more support from the community as it would be useable all year. Said Hindman, “Not only would it be better to have a pool you could use 12 months than two-and-a-half, but I think from a public support aspect it will get a lot more support to have an indoor all year-round, but if we can bring in a partnership we would get a lot of community support for working with the school district.”

In November Berthoud voters approved a one-percent sales tax increase for improvements to recreation amenities in the town, but also expressed a preference the funds be used first and foremost to upgrade and expand the trails system.

A number of the trustees, however, have always advocated for a recreation center. “I’m dying to see dirt moved in Berthoud for something other than houses,” Hindman said after Kirk said it is possible construction, “moving dirt,” in Kirk’s words, could begin as early as the spring of 2020.

The town has attempted various methods to get the recreation center built, including the controversial and heretofore unsuccessful attempt at using Certificates of Participation (COPs), essentially a method of borrowing funds in a lease-to-own effort at a recreation center.

Berthoud Trustee Pete Tomassi, who was unable to attend the meeting at BHS last Wednesday but spoke with the Surveyor about the issue on Monday, seemed skeptical TSD would provide $4.5 million for the proposed pool enclosure.

“I’d be really surprised if the school board and then committee that has been appointed to determine how those funds are allocated, approved that,” Tomassi said. “Not that it wouldn’t be a great fit for the high school to have a place locally for their swim team, but $4.5 million seems like a lot of money for a very limited number of students that would benefit from it as opposed to what they could do for Berthoud schools in general or for the district as a whole.”

Tomassi also expressed concern about the added maintenance and operating costs an indoor pool would require, pointing to a presentation given to the town board last summer by a consultant who outlined financial hardships other towns have endured after constructing such a facility.  

“He did everything he could to convince us that an indoor aquatics facility is a bad idea for Berthoud,” Tomassi said of the presentation. “Annual operating and maintenance costs they were not able to recapture enough from the programming and the fees they’re charging individuals and families; that’s been my concern with this from the beginning.” 

As for now, the proposal is just that, a proposal, and no timetable on a final decision currently exists. TSD has listed a wide array of options for using the additional funds from the bond premium. The majority of which include things such as completing additional maintenance, and repairs and improvements to schools throughout the district, as well as upgrades and improvements to Ray Patterson Field at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland.

Yet several of the members of the TSD Board appeared warm to the idea of helping Berthoud build an indoor pool facility. Said board of education member Paul Bankes, “I think your community is deserving of (a pool) … we have four high schools in the district and the other three, the Loveland schools, have pools, and if I lived here in Berthoud and I had children in the high school here I would say ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ … if there is any way we can partner and help you find a way to have a pool, I think it’s important.”

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