Encinal High pool fixes could top $2 million

Encinal High pool fixes could top $2 million

Michele Ellson

Fixing Encinal High School’s pools could cost more than $2.1 million, a newly released estimate shows – a bill that’s four times what city staffers thought needed fixes would cost and a few hundred thousand dollars less than building new pools from scratch.

Estimates obtained by the city put the cost of fixes for Encinal’s pools at $500,000 – about a quarter of the school district’s new estimate. But the city’s estimate doesn’t include fixes the school district would need to make the pools comply with county and state regulations, Alameda Unified’s chief business officer, Robert Shemwell, told the Board of Education at a meeting Tuesday night.

The district’s contractor, Aquatic Design Group, said the fixes the city looked into would cost $750,000 to make. In an April 21 letter to Shemwell, the firm said the city underestimated some costs and left others out. Even if the short list of fixes were made, the pools wouldn’t meet modern size standards for high school pools, the letter says.

“The AUSD will have to determine if it is prudent to invest $750,000 into the facility and still not have a pool that meets the minimum standard,” the letter says.

A subcommittee made up of school board and City Council members decided on March 27 to back-burner fixes to the Emma Hood Swim Center at Alameda High School and to focus on the pools at Encinal, Shemwell told the full school board on Tuesday. Making upgrades and repairs to the Emma Hood pools would cost $60,000 by the city’s estimate, while building a new swim center there would cost $2.7 million.

In March 27 letter to Alameda Recreation and Park Director Amy Wooldridge, Shemwell said he believed the city’s estimates understated the costs of fixing the Encinal pools by $1.5 million to $1.785 million.

Additional fixes suggested by Aquatic Design Group include more bathrooms, new fencing and equipment, accessibility upgrades and replacement of the pools’ cast-iron pipes, which the firm said “is likely in some state of failure and should be replaced.” Those additional fixes would raise the cost of fixing the Encinal pools to $2.1 million, it said.

Building a new, six-lane pool and renovating the facility would cost $2.5 million, the letter says. In its letter, the firm said it provided a third estimate for removing all of Encinal’s pools and replacing them with a single pool that can accommodate all of the high school’s programs, but that estimate wasn’t available Tuesday night.

Shemwell said no funding source has been identified for major pool fixes. City leaders tried and failed in 2012 to win voter approval of a sales tax increase which would have provided an estimated $5 million to build a new, Olympic-size pool that backers said at the time could be used by both the schools and the community at large.

The district shut down pools at both high schools in October 2010 after learning it had major code compliance issues. Cost estimates generated after the closures put the cost of bringing the pools up to current codes at $1.7 million and the cost of replacing them at $4 million.

The city and the school district have had a joint use agreement for use and maintenance of the district’s pools that saw both parties covering half of the roughly $300,000 cost of operating them, but that agreement expires on June 30. The city is seeking to renew the agreement for just three months – as opposed to annually, as has been done in the past – leading some board members to question whether the city will have swim programs after it lapses and others to ask whether the pools can remain open without the city’s help.

“We’ll limp along,” said Superintendent Kirsten Vital, who said district staff would recommend the board keep the pools open. The agreement is set to come back to the board for its approval at a later date.

Big fixes Shemwell will recommend for next year include lifts that were required to be installed in each of the district’s five pools by January 31 and filters at Emma Hood. The district is talking to the city about sharing the $188,000 cost of those upgrades, though under its agreement with the city, the district is solely responsible for major capital fixes.

Board Trustee Barbara Kahn asked if the pools could be shut even if the proposed fixes are made, given that they are not up to current codes. Shemwell said the pools’ poor condition limits what the district and its students can do with them.

“They’re basically training pools for us and for the community,” Shemwell said.

In other news, the board:

Received an update on how Measure A parcel tax funds are being spent this year and a recommendation to maintain existing funding patterns in 2013-2014. As of January 31, the district had spent a little more than half of the $12.2 million in Measure A funds and had plans to spend much of the rest, with about $849,000 still available. That amount included nearly $336,000 for high school athletics, $232,000 for technology and $85,000 for counselors. The district overspent its budget for maintaining neighborhood elementary schools by nearly $50,000, for JROTC by more than $17,000 and high school fine arts by more than $13,000. Meanwhile, Rob Siltanen, who manages Measure A for the district, recommended keeping the percentage of Measure A funds for each of the categories they are designated to pay for the same as in prior years.

Accepted the district’s contract proposals to provide pay hikes for non-teaching staff. The contract proposals followed the board’s approval of pay raises for Alameda’s teachers.

Approved a new board policy on transitional kindergarten. The policy doesn’t offer a process for parents who want their young 5-year-olds to go straight to kindergarten, though Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said some limited exceptions to the requirement that they enter the transitional program could be made. So far the district – which held off on providing the program for a year as the state straightened its budget problems out – has received 63 applications for students eligible for the program, and district leaders are envisioning classrooms on the West End, in Central Alameda and on Bay Farm Island. The program is expected to cost $236,000.