The Barton Community College Board of Trustees may vote to shut down the 45-year-old swimming pool in the next three years, or it may look for more ways to finance costly maintenance and repairs. The options were discussed last Thursday at a board study session, and could be on the agenda as action item at the May 28 meeting.
At the study session, administrators reported on the cost issue and on proposed solutions.
The college uses the pool for a limited number of credit courses, such as scuba classes. In the past six years, the pool has produced a high of 96 credit hours in 2008-09 and a low of 47 credits hours in 2011-12. Money netted from courses has ranged from $880 up to $9,100 a year. The college also receives about $3,000 a year in rental charges.
Weekly “open swim” times for students and community members see an average attendance of three people per week.
One suggestion was to increase the amount of money the pool earn by requiring students to enroll in swimming courses as a physical education requirement. Barton Vice President Dr. Penny Quinn said such a requirement would not be practical, and would require hiring another full-time person with aquatic certification. Since the total number of required P.E. credits would not change, this would not really generate new enrollments or revenue.
Pool maintenance costs such as chlorine, chemicals and daily repairs come to $23,000 a year. Water and heating costs are $14,400, which includes natural gas costs; electricity is another $10,200. Last year, lifeguards cost $4,400 and labor & testing was $5,000.
Last December, college staff replaced the pool filter and backwash system for $19,000, which did not include the college’s labor.
Future capital costs for the next five years include replacing the ceiling grid and tile, which were installed in 1970, as a cost of $52,000. A new pump/strainer basket and housing will cost $4,000; pool deck material that has been in the pool for over 20 years needs to be replaced at an estimated cost of $45,000, and acidizing and painting of pool surfaces should be done at a cost of about $9,300.
Total five-year revenue is projected to be $36,964; total five-year expenses, $348,900.
USD 428 proposal
Great Bend USD 428 has used the pool at no cost until now. The school district has proposed making a $50,000 capital investment in exchange for a 12-year lease. It would also allow BCC to use USD 428 facilities for the college’s new wrestling program, when schedules permit.
BCC Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Johnson said the college has its own facilities for the wrestling program. Athletic Director Trevor Rolfs talked about how that is coming along during a report given earlier in the meeting.
After the issue was raised at a BCC study session last February, a committee was formed to study the issue. Trustee Leonard Bunselmeyer and BCC Dean of Administration Mark Dean joined community members on the committee. However, Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman told the board Thursday, “There were no credible options.”
Trustees are aware that this will be an emotional issue.
“There’s more involved here than just dollars and cents,” chairman Johnson said. “The pool is important to the community.
“The relationship between 428 and BCC has always been extremely strong,” Johnson said, adding he hopes that can continue. However, he said, “The pool no longer serves a purpose for the college.”
Trustee Don Learned said the public probably wasn’t aware that the school district has been using the pool at no cost for years. “I had no idea that 428 did not pay anything to the college,” he said.
“We probably never asked them before,” Johnson said.
Trustee John Moshier said, “It really is too bad others aren’t stepping up. Ultimately, we will make the choice of whether we can afford to keep it.”
Bunselmeyer said he would like to see a joint meeting between BCC trustees and the USD 428 school board.
“I think it’s important not to close the door on discussion of possibilities,” he said.
But, Johnson noted, if the college accepts USD 428’s offer of $50,000 for 12 years, or even $75,000 for five years suggested by the BCC administration, that won’t cover the projected expenses of the next five years.
“The college would still be on the hook for about a quarter of a million dollars,” he said.
Heilman said that cost would equate to about 1 mill in property taxes.
Johnson noted some people will want the college to do whatever it takes to keep the pool; others could care less about the pool but don’t want their taxes to go up.
“People have tried to make us look like bad guys,” Johnson said. “I think we have to come up with a set number and say ‘this is what we have to have.’"