Board Workshop results in Community Discussion

The starting gun for the long journey of replacing the North County Recreation District’s swimming pool was fired on Thursday 12 January at a special meeting of the NCRD Board. Although the purpose of the meeting was to have a workshop to discuss how a new pool might be funded, an already high level of public interest and participation diverted the workshop into an opportunity for those present to express their views. Good contributions were made which will be addressed in the planning documents and we expect a lot more participation as this process moves ahead. Whatever we do will need community support as NCRD is, after all, a community facility.

NCRD’s existing swimming pool was built in 1930 as a response to the drowning of two local 14 year-olds. The community wanted to provide a learn-to-swim program for all local children so that this tragedy would not be repeated and, thankfully, in the last 81 years it has not. NCRD’s learn-to-swim program is still a vibrant component of the aquatics programs, and in fact this year the elementary school has incorporated it into the official physical education curriculum.

But, like most of us, the old pool is showing its age. While the mechanical components like pumps and the chemical dosing system can be replaced as needed, the design of the pool itself cannot. It does not meet the current code requirements for deck size and skimmer system capacity, and sooner or later we will lose the grandfather rights for non-compliance and have to close. Also, we’ve simply outgrown it! The changing rooms are not big enough, and the pool itself gets too crowded during peak open-swim times and popular aqua-aerobics classes.

Today we have nearly $600k saved from the local option tax and are working hard to increase this to $1M in a couple of years. So now it’s time to stop dreaming and start serious planning. Based on advice from USA Swimming, we are preparing an “Enterprise Plan” that describes why we need a new pool, what we will do in it, what size it will be, how much it will cost and how we will pay for it. A formal draft of this document is planned for completion by the end of March, at which time it will be ready for public review and comment. The big questions to be answered are how much will it cost, and can we afford it? We will validate the preliminary numbers from USA Swimming against actual costs to build other pools before releasing the draft. And we will also include whether it is feasible to simply fix up our existing pool. Whatever we do, it must be something that we as a community can afford.

All public comments will be addressed in the final version of the Enterprise Plan, which will then be used as the brief for a qualified pool designer to develop a design and a more accurate cost estimate. There will be further opportunities for public input before this design is finalized. Then it will be time to go to the voters to, hopefully, get your approval. We’d like to get that done by November 2013.

There will be more public meetings before the draft Enterprise Plan is ready – look for notices in the post offices and on our web site www.ncrd.org.