The Andover City Council wants the city administrator to stay engaged in the discussion about reopening the Oak View Middle School pool but is currently not interested in helping financially to get this done.
Parents, students and coaches appeared during the communication portion of the Sept. 24 Anoka-Hennepin District 11 School Board meeting to ask for the pool to be reopened.
The next day, the council during a workshop meeting asked City Administrator Jim Dickinson to contact the YMCA and see if it would be interested in being a partner to get the Oak View pool reopened, which was closed in the spring of 2002 as part of a series of budget cuts by the school board following a failed levy referendum in 2001.
At the Oct. 23 workshop meeting, Councilmember Sheri Bukkila said she does not have a problem with staff collaborating with the school district and YMCA, but does not think the city is equipped to take on operation of this pool.
“I don’t think it’s our game, so to speak,” Bukkila said. “It really is the school district. If they can find a way to partner with other entities, that’s great, but other than that I don’t want to get financially invested in that.”
Councilmember Julie Trude said before the Andover YMCA/Community Center opened, a citizen task force found that pools at other facilities always required taxpayers to cover operations and maintenance because fees were never enough to cover costs.
The YMCA became Andover’s partner and Trude believes it could become a partner with the middle school by offering programming there.
Andover YMCA Executive Director Allison Boes said there are times during the day when the YMCA could use extra pool space.
Boes had a brief conversation about the pool with the city of Andover over a month ago.
She said the YMCA would be interested in being a part of any conversation the city has with the Anoka-Hennepin School District on this topic.
“We see the Oak View pool as a great asset to the Andover community and would definitely be in support of the pool reopening,” Boes said.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the district at the Sept. 24 board meeting, following the failed 2001 referendum, voters were asked in 2002 and 2007 if they favored an additional tax levy to reduce co-curricular activity fees and to reopen swimming pools.
Both levy requests failed so pools at Oak View Middle School and Coon Rapids Middle School have remained closed.
Steve Kerr, Anoka-Hennepin School District’s community education director, said it costs about $7,500 a year to maintain the Oak View pool while it is closed. Water must still be in the pool and circulated to prevent corrosion in the pipes and pumps just in case the pool reopens at some point in the future.
The annual operating cost if the pool was to re-open would be about $100,000, Kerr said. There would be pool chemical and utility costs. It would need to be heated and the air handling system would be turned on. The lights would be turned on. A custodian would have to maintain the pool and its systems.
Kerr said there may need to be repairs done to the pool because it has been closed for so long. There may be leaks, for example, and this would add another startup cost beyond the aforementioned operating cost, according to Kerr.
Dickinson said for the city, it comes down to available hours. If so many other groups want to use the pool that other Andover residents cannot use it when they want, nothing would be accomplished for the general Andover tax base.
Councilmember Tony Howard said this is a hot-button topic for people he knows.
“I would love to see Jim stay on task with it,” Howard said. “It kind of shows our constituents that we want to help them. I agree with Sheri that I really don’t want to fork out any more money. I don’t think it’s our responsibility to do so. If the ‘Y’ can come forward and partner with the school district, perfect.”
Swim programs support pool reopening
Due to the Oak View Middle School pool closing in the spring of 2002 and Andover High School opening later that fall, Andover swimmers have never had a home pool.
For the past 10 years, the Andover High School boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving teams have shared the Anoka Middle School for the Arts, Fred Moore campus, pool with the Anoka teams. Blaine and Coon Rapids high school teams share Northdale Middle School’s pool.
Champlin Park High School and the public use Jackson Middle School’s pool. Roosevelt Middle School’s pool is reserved for the school district’s community education swimming programs.
Pete Crawford, head boys’ swimming and diving coach at Andover High School, said re-opening the Oak View pool would be a “huge blessing to both the girls’ and boys’ swim teams along with their parents.” He said having a “home pool” would “bring great pride for this community and the school district.”
The booster clubs for the Andover and Anoka boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving teams are both supportive of the Oak View Middle School pool re-opening and said it could boost Andover’s recruiting.
According to the Anoka Booster Club President Chris Pickhardt, the Anoka girls’ team has 72 members this season, a record. The boys’ team had approximately 62 last year.
On the other hand, Andover has 35 girls on its team and about 20 boys had signed up as of the end of October, according to Andover Booster Club President Cathy Gendreau.
The girls’ season began in August and is wrapping up. The boys can start practicing after Thanksgiving break.
“I would say that having our practice pool located at Oak View would allow us to recruit more easily and build a base early encouraging kids from the junior high in a similar fashion to Anoka,” Gendreau said.
Gendreau and Pickhardt spoke about the challenges of timing the practices at the Fred Moore pool.
During the girls’ season, the Andover team practices first and the Anoka team practices second.
If the Anoka girls eat before practice, it is hard to put in a heavy workout, Pickhardt said. If they wait until they get home, they won’t be able to eat until after 9 p.m. They also have to find the time to do their homework and get a good night’s sleep to be at school for the first class at 7:40 a.m.
During the boys’ season, Gendreau said the Andover team has the late practice and therefore has to get themselves from their homes to the Fred Moore pool. The girls’ team is able to utilize an available school bus because they practice right after school gets out.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]