Barton Community College trustees discussed the future of the college’s swimming pool during their May study session on Thursday. Board Chairman Mike Johnson said they need to vote on the issue at the May 28 business meeting, but whatever the board decides is sure to make someone unhappy.
Options could include closing the pool in three years, or coming up with a quarter of a million dollars (or more) next year for expenses. If the pool stays open, the college will have to come up with the money, which could mean a 1 mill tax increase for a year or cutting a position, Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said.
The numbers haven’t changed since the subject was raised last February. The projected five-year revenue for the pool is $36,964, and the projected five-year expenditures are $348,900.
In February, Barton’s Dean of Administration Mark Dean described recent costly improvements, and some that are still needed. “The facility’s 45 years old,” he said. “My major concern is the drop ceiling. ... Some day the ceiling is going to fall.”
A local swim club, The Golden Belt Swim Squad, increased its contribution for using the pool, Heilman noted. But Great Bend USD 428 has always used the pool for free. There was a reciprocity agreement between the school district and the college; occasionally Barton used the Panther Athletic Center at no charge.
At the last school board meeting, Great Bend USD 428 Superintendent Brad Reed suggested it may be time for the district to make a capital investment in the college’s pool. No action has been taken by the school board, but Dean said that Reed made a proposal to the college toward the end of April.
The proposal described to trustees Thursday is that USD 428 would make a capital investment of $50,000, to be used toward the replacement of the ceiling in the swimming pool. The district would also allow the college to use USD 428’s wrestling facilities when schedule allows. In return, USD requests a 12-year lease agreement to allow the school’s swim teams full usage with no significant change in the frequency or volume of use. The contribution amounts to $4,166 per year over 12 years.
The board of trustees was given two possible options at Thursday’s study session.
One option would be to submit a counter proposal, seeking a $75,000 lease fee, or $15,000 a year for five years. A longer agreement was not recommended. The $75,000 figure was arrived at after asking USD 428 Activities Director David Meter to survey peer institutions that pay to use swimming pools; $15,000 was at the high end and BCC administrators feel it is justified by the costs of keeping the pool.
Option two is for the BCC Board of Trustees to determine that the pool will be shut down after three years. Maintenance would be minimal but it would give those using the pool time to make other arrangements. (Any major system failure during the three-year period may require the pool to be shut down earlier.)
Johnson noted that two trustees were unable to attend the study session. He suggested putting the USD 428 proposal on the May 28 agenda. If it is not approved, he suggested voting next whether to close the pool in three years. “There can be other motions made at the meeting.”
However, “Option one (asking USD 428 for a $75,000, five-year agreement) expects something we don’t even know if they’ll offer or not,” Johnson said. “We can’t continue this thought process for six more months.”
If the college has to raise local taxes next year to keep a swimming pool, Johnson said, “that needs to be publicly stated.”
Editor’s note: Due to the length of Thursday’s meeting, additional comments on this and other subjects discussed by the college trustees will appear in Sunday’s Great Bend Tribune.