School board discusses closing pool

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Los Lunas School District officials are contemplating closing the high school swimming pool indefinitely.

The swimming pool maintenance and repair costs are a drain on the school district resources, said Superintendent Bernard Saiz.

Even though the village of Los Lunas contributed $30,000 for pool operations this summer, the school district's budget restraints, including federal and state education cuts as well as budget deficits from lost enrollment, the cost of pool repairs and maintenance is too great a burden for the district to bear.

"At this point, the swimming pool is of no benefit to Los Lunas Schools," Saiz said. "We can't use it for our swim team, we can't use it for (physical education) classes, it doesn't benefit us for our sports or curriculum programs because it's an outdoor pool …

"We're putting our money into this and we're not getting any return for it as a school district, other than we're providing a place for our students to hang out during the summer. The cost to that is becoming simply way out."

The Stingray Swim team, a boys and girls summer swim club, use the pool for practice, but the Los Lunas High School swim team practices at the Isleta Pueblo pool.

Soon after the swimming pool was opened this summer, there were mechanical and pool lining problems.

Costs for maintenance were $37,000 in addition to the $53,400 for pool employees.

But this year wasn't as costly as last year when the district had to replace the boiler, or the year before when the pool lining had to be replaced, which cost $103,000, said Claire Cieremans, the district's chief financial officer.

The maintenance department recommends the roof be replaced because it has cracks and leaks, which will cost about $8,000 or $9,000, and the diving boards and platforms also need to be replaced, said Andy Garcia, director of maintenance.

"That's an estimated cost of $15,000 to $20,000 just for the platform and the diving boards themselves, that doesn't include installation," Garcia said. "The doors and door frames are in poor shape and they need to be replaced. I'd say about $5,000 for that."

The liner is still under warranty and is going back to the company it was purchased from, but there is also concrete work that needs to be done around the drain.

In revenue, the swimming pool brought in $47,478, which is about average, said Cieremans.

The Superintendent said he has approached the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus about going into a partnership, but there was no interest there, he said.

An aquatic center is on the village wish list, but it isn't in the financial position to pursue that yet.

"The pool is a widely used facility, and there is a limited number of pools in the county," said James Rickey, a resident of Los Lunas.

The only other pools are the Belen pool, and Tierra del Sol, but the country club pool wasn't open last year or this year.

"I know there has been a lot of issues with the (Los Lunas) pool, that it's a 30-year-old facility," Rickey said. "But I will note that Belen, which is a much smaller school system, and the city of Belen is much smaller than Los Lunas, and yet they are going ahead with a major enhancement to their pool, whereas we're still trudging along with the same pool."

It's not the responsibility of the school district to provide a public swimming pool, but currently it is the only aquatic recreational facility for the people of Los Lunas, and is used by nearby towns.

"The county, Peralta and Bosque Farms don't contribute one cent to the running of this pool, and a lot of people in those jurisdictions do use the pool," said Rickey. "Every year, the county commission approves $3,000 for the summer recreation programs for Los Lunas and Belen, and this year, they raised it $3,000 for Peralta, and Bosque Farms $1,000. Yet those jurisdictions never contribute a cent for the running of this pool, and I think that's horrendous."

Rickey suggested the school district and the public address federal and state legislators for grant funding or loans to repair and even enclose the pool.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.