Lake Oswego School District searching for additional pool funding
The Lake Oswego School District is deep in the process of planning and designing a new pool for the district and community, but there is a lot of work to be done — including figuring out how to pay for it.
The pool will be partially funded by the bond passed by voters in May 2017 — $7 million was allocated for the project — but the district needs to secure more funding in order to build a pool that meets the needs of its users.
One possible source of funding is through a partnership with the City of Lake Oswego. The recently approved parks bond initiative will provide the City with an additional $30 million worth of funding trickling in over the next 20 years for acquisition of open space, renovating existing facilities and capital improvement. Over the past month, parks staff and the Lake Oswego Parks and Natural Resources Advisory Boardhave been discussing priorities and hosting public outreach events to gain as much feedback as possible.
At a July 16 City Council study session, the parks board presented a list of priorities, which was topped by the pool, athletic facilities and trails.
"As we started the prioritization process, these historical projects, many of which have been on the list for years and years, we had prioritized those in the past and there was maybe a little movement, but then we hit the swimming pool," park board co-chair Bill Gordon said at the meeting. "Frankly, a few of us thought that the swimming pool would be a brief discussion because up to this point aquatics was part of the school district's responsibility, not the city's."
The park board suggested that the City Council consider the big picture question of whether it wants to be in the pool business, and if the answer is yes, to set up a meeting with the school district to discuss building an aquatic center attached to a potential recreation center.
Gordon and parks board co-chair Scott Bullard suggested to the City Council an allocation of $2 million of the park bond's $30 million to go toward the pool. At a Pool Task Force meeting last December, aquatic facilities consultant Ken Ballard estimated that a pool that would please all of its users — or Lake Oswego's "dream" pool — would cost up to $25 million to build.
With the district's $7 million (which could go up if other bond-funded projects come in under budget) and potentially $2 million from the parks bond, the LOSD still has a long way to go in securing necessary funding for a pool.
Officials from the LOSD say they hope to continue talks with the City. "To our knowledge, nothing definitive has been determined at this time, but we are eager to continue conversations about the prospect of a potential partnership," said LOSD Communications Director Christine Moses. If the district decides to seek other sources of funding, that decision will be up to the school board at a future meeting.
The LOSD indicated last year that Lakeridge Middle School would be the best place to put the pool, but has since changed course. "The school board has indicated that as we move forward with the planning phase of the project we may explore the possibilities of a different location," Moses said.
One possible location is the Lake Oswego Public Golf Course. According to a space feasibility study completed by Robertson Sherwood Architects on behalf of the City, an aquatic center attached to a potential recreation center could theoretically fit at the golf course.
Some members of the park board expressed concerns about the potential loss of athletic fields if the district built the pool at Lakeridge Middle School.
"That might not concern us if the City didn't already have a shortage of fields," Gordon said. "As we talked about it, this became more and more of a concern, and it didn't appear to us that the school district or city had property to make up the loss of fields."
Superintendent Lora de la Cruz said in a statement that she is aware of the gravity of the potential loss of field space. "I want to convey to our community that we understand the importance of athletic fields, and our intention is to work to enhance, replace or, to the greatest degree possible, preserve them, while still meeting our educational goals," she said. "The district hopes to work with our City partners, through various means, to minimize any potential loss of athletic fields if the pool was located at Lakeridge Middle School."
The district's next step will be to hire an architectural design firm to help determine the best location for the pool. Proposals from interested firms will be due to the district Aug. 15. "One of the valuable outcomes of working with an architectural design firm will be to weigh other siting options and the extent to which they are feasible," Moses said. "(The process) will zero in on locations that most likely will maintain the most open space and that will efficiently utilize a particular site."
The City Council will review the recommendations made by the park board ahead of what is expected to be a lengthy discussion over priorities at its next regular meeting Sept. 3. The next school board meeting is Aug. 6, and the pool will likely be on the agenda.
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