Columbia- The Columbia Public School District is proposing the renovation of the Hickman High School swimming pool based on an in-depth evaluation that recommended significant upgrades. A motion to split the costs between the district and the city was approved at Monday’s City Council meeting.
The district requested the evaluation after several meetings in the spring between district and city staff, who jointly operate the natatorium. The district agreed to have its consultant, DLR Group, conduct an evaluation of the pool in cooperation with the swimming pool consulting firm, Counsilman-Hunsaker. The report identified several high priority needs that they considered critical in improving air standards.
“I know air quality was definitely listed on every evaluation that came across my desk,” said Bruce Whitesides, the district’s athletics director.
The indoor natatorium, located at the corner of Providence Road and Business Loop 70, has been jointly operated by the city and school district since its construction in the mid-1960s. The facility has hosted swimming events for the Show-Me State Games, and is available for public use only through swimming lessons.
According to the report filed by Mike Hood, director of the parks department, city and district staff have decided to complete the $1.6 million renovation in phases. They assigned the highest priority needs to phase one at an estimated cost at $342,000, including $332,000 to install an air conditioning system and upgrade the existing heating and ventilation system and $10,000 to upgrade the chlorine tank and storage room.
In light of the natatorium’s ventilation problems, an air-monitoring system would be installed to assess the amount of chlorine in the air.
“It’s basically a security system,” said Gary Ristow, recreation services manager for Columbia Parks and Recreation. Ristow said that high chlorine levels would alert an exhaust system to expel the gas outside the facility.
City and district staff believe the city’s share of the project, around $171,000, can be made in annual payments of $57,000. Between $40,000 and $45,000 would come from operational cost savings due to air systems upgrades and placing natural gas costs under the district’s less expensive contract. That money would be supplemented from the parks department’s annual park improvement money.
City and district staff discussed the option of constructing a new facility but considered renovation to be a more feasible approach. Ristow said the deciding factors were money and the question of where to build the new natatorium.
“It would be a very expensive proposition,” he said. “If they were to build a new facility, it would probably be years away.”