HOLCOMB — After several months of preliminary research, the Holcomb USD 363 Board of Education voted unanimously last week to not move forward with early plans to potentially build an indoor swimming facility near district schools.
USD 363 superintendent Scott Myers updated board members on the project last Monday, reviewing a public forum the district held about the project in September and some additional findings about the project.
Myers was interested in “next steps,” he said in a memo in the board’s meeting packet, and suggested members opt to hold another community meeting, decide on a funding mechanism for the project or decide to halt further progress. After a discussion, the board chose to set aside the project for the time being.
Myers said in an email the board was interested in revisiting the project in the future, but only under a “better fiscal environment” at the district.
“While everyone is interested in having a new pool, the cost is simply too prohibitive given everything else we are trying to do,” Myers said in the email.
Myers initially looked into the facility in response to multiple questions about the defunct indoor pool in Holcomb Elementary School, which was drained and closed off 10 years ago because of financial constraints.
Myers has said the older pool would likely be too costly to fix, but a new one could be used to teach all younger students how to swim during physical education periods, be accessible to local swim teams, and be used by Holcomb and Garden City recreation commissions for water aerobics and therapy courses.
At the September community meeting, Holcomb residents were not against the idea of the district building an indoor pool but repeatedly showed concerns about how the cost of the project would affect property taxes.
Early cost estimates for the project, a 25-yard, eight-lane indoor swimming pool coupled with stands and locker rooms, set construction costs at $6 million, plus ongoing maintenance and operations expenses. If bonded out over 15 years, construction would cost the district about $514,000 a year and raise the mill levy about 4.77 mills, Myers said at the meeting. For farmers and ranchers who own many acres of land, the spike could be financially devastating, especially considering the current economic climate for agriculture-based industries, community members argued.
Board of education member Jean Johnson reiterated Myers’ points, saying the board decided the district could not cover initial construction or ongoing upkeep expenses at the moment. She said the district had also researched partnership opportunities with other local entities regarding the pool, but the project was not affordable to potential partners either.
To move forward, the pool would have to be “the only priority” for the district, and it isn’t the only priority, she said.
“As much as everyone wants it — and everyone really does — it’s not fundable right now,” Johnson said. “It didn’t seem like the community felt like they could handle that kind of burden either.”