LO council, school board discuss new pool
For the first time in nearly two years, the Lake Oswego City Council and Lake Oswego School Board met in a joint session Tuesday to discuss how they might come together to build a new pool for both school district and community use.
It's a topic that has swirled around for the several years as demand for pool time continues to increase from the many clubs and organizations that use the aging Lake Oswego School District pool at Lake Oswego High School. It was a hot button issue this past election season as constituents peppered City Council candidates with questions about where they stood on helping the school district fund the construction of a state-of-the-art aquatic center that meets the various needs of each group.
A $187 million school bond measure approved by voters in May 2017 included $7 million for updating or replacing the current dilapidated pool. However, early cost estimates showed that the district might need additional funding for the pool beyond the $7 million allocation, thus prompting officials to reach out to the City about a possible partnership.
The one thing everyone can agree on is that there's definitely a demand for a larger, more practical pool that meets everyone's needs and allows multiple activities at the same time. What's yet to be seen is how the City and the school district will partner to get it done, but that question took a few steps toward clarification Tuesday as the two groups sat down to discuss what that partnership might look like.
City Council President Skip O'Neill and School Board Chair Bob Barman each took a minute to go through some of the projects and goals that their groups were working to complete, many of which had overlapping interest.
School district officials — including Superintendent Mike Musick, Executive Director of Finance Stuart Ketzler, Executive Director of Secondary Programs Lou Bailey, Pool Manager Morgan Rauch and Executive Director of Project Management Tony Vandenberg — gave a brief presentation to the council on where the project currently stands with plans to build two different options of pools: a stretch 25-yard by 35-40 meter pool or a 50-meter by 25-yard pool, on the northeast corner of the property at Lakeridge Junior High. Both options could be accompanied by a community pool that would be warmer than the "competition" pool used for swimming and water polo, where activities like swim lessons could take place.
In all, the two options could take up approximately 45,000 to 75,000 square feet of property at the LJH site with an accompanying parking lot of either 64 or 96 spots. The layout of each option could also affect plans to bring a new track and multiple fields to the LJH site.
The total cost of the project is unclear, but according to numbers thrown around in discussions by the school district's pool task force, the project could cost between $10 million and $30 million depending on what type of pool the city and school district agree upon.
Financing the project was a point of slight contention between the two bodies, with the City Council wanting a clear answer from the school district on how much they've currently allotted, how much they plan to spend and what type of financial commitment they'd like to see from the city.
According to Ketzler, the school district has about $7 million allocated and expects another $3 million from their bond premium.
A rough estimate from the school district's consulting firm Ballard & King puts the cost at about $20 million, but according to Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff — who sat in on the task force's meetings — the 50-meter pool option with a community pool attached would likely be closer to $30 million.
There's potential for the city's portion of that commitment to building a new pool could come from the $30 million parks bond that voters will decide on when they receive their ballots for upcoming election next month, but seeing as that money isn't tangible yet, the city has been careful not to promise funds to any specific project on its long list of priorities for parks and recreation.
"As we heard from the council, it seems there's a consensus from the community aspect. From our perspective, we're going to deliver on the student side, so it's just a matter of getting our staffs together to do the work with our direction," Barman said. "It's really important we support the parks bond because we have a need in our community to support these types of athletic facilities."
Perhaps the most important recurring theme of the meeting was the need for both City and school district staff to begin working together on the details of the project, vetting potential other sites for the pool, such as the Lake Oswego Public Golf Course and a portion of Lakeridge High School as suggested by Councilor John LaMotte. Everyone agreed that allowing the two staffs to get to work with direction from the council and school board would allow both sides to better understand what it will take to make this dream a reality.
"I think (the meeting) was excellent. We need to get the two staffs working together. We have a joint committee, but it has only met once," said Councilor John Wendland. "There are some trigger points that the school district has to make, as we do with getting the parks bond passed."
For Wendland, beginning the dialogue around this project is an important step forward, but to see real progress he believes both sides need to work in concert to break down the barriers around some of the financial silos that each of the two bodies has put up in order to find a path toward a funding model that both can live with and works in terms of making the taxpayers happy.
"The average citizen already trusts that we're working together and being efficient, good stewards of their money. I think that one of the most important things is coordination to make this city better through wise use of our tax dollars," Wendland said.
Wendland said he'd like to see meetings continue between the council and school district and take place at least once per quarter. The two sides hope to come back to the table in July following both the vote on the City's parks bond and school board election in May.
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