PINEDALE – With much of the meeting over in 30 minutes, the bulk of last week’s Sublette County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees meeting focused on renovating the 4-year-old Pinedale Aquatic Center (PAC).
PAC Director JJ Huntley said the degree and consistency of use of the center has not only been surprising, but it has also overwhelmed the gym and swimming facilities, not to mention leaving no spare room for storage. Storage rooms became offices and now offices are becoming storage rooms, she said.
Huntley and other PAC staff came to the school board meeting with a $2.5 million proposal for a north addition and south addition, both of which will have storage space and activity rooms.
In a vote of five to one, the board agreed to pursue the additions. Chairman Mark Pape voted against the proposal, expressing his wish that less expensive options be explored first.
Currently, the PAC is storing equipment in any and all empty corners of its building. Additional equipment is stored in the BOCES (Board of Cooperative Education Services) building (the old elementary school). But the vacant area of that building will soon be the district’s alternative high school setting, and the PAC is trying to find alternatives to serve both storage capacity and the need for more activity space.
“The PAC has an urgent need for permanent storage,” Huntley said, noting the storage situation, as it stands, doesn’t comply with fire codes.
Recreation Coordinator Amber Anderson said additional studios would free up a lot of gym space. She showed a diagram of when the main gym space is used, concluding with all the classes and activities that don’t fit in the current classroom, the gym can’t be used for its intended purpose.
The south addition would be three floors right off the gym, between it and the high school. It would have a basement with office and storage space for maintenance, a storage room for activity equipment to replace the truck storage on the gym floor and a studio at the track level for dance, aerobic, karate, pilates classes, etc.
The north addition would be right off the pool. Currently, a lot of the deck area around the pool is used for storage, limiting the number of people the area can hold. April Ginest, the PAC’s aquatic coordinator, said clearing up the deck area would put the PAC and Pinedale High School in a position to bid for the hosting privileges of regional and state meets. The swim teams have a few large meets each season, but the deck gets crowded with more than five teams.
While supportive of the concept, board members had questions about the $2.5 million price tag.
“$2.5 million for storage? Considering the budget situation, I think we need to talk about where that money comes from,” Pape said.
The district is discussing operation budget cuts, but the money for the project would come out of the rental fund, which the district set up specifically to pay for capital improvements on buildings it rents out to other entities. The PAC and BOCES both pay into this fund with their monthly rent payments.
In other circumstances, board member Mike McFarland suggested, the PAC could move some programs to classrooms in the BOCES building, but using it as an alternative setting makes that difficult and any solution would be temporary should the need for space for the alternative high school grow.
The rental fund currently has around $4 million, and the PAC expansion would use nearly two-thirds of it. Board member Jim Malkowski, who serves on the PAC joint powers board, said, by the time construction gets underway around this time next year, the PAC will have contributed a substantial chunk of change back to the fund, making the proportion used for the project smaller.
Those board members who had been a part of getting the PAC started, including McFarland and Malkowski, said they had never expected the facility to be used so heavily. District Secretary Sharron Zielger said the PAC joint powers board didn’t know all of this extra room and amenities would be needed at that stage.
“We didn’t know how much this would touch the community,” she said.
With money in the account, she said this is what it should be spent on, and, despite initial hesitation, the board members agreed.
“This is needed space and the longer we wait, the more it costs,” board member Doris Woodbury said.
The only dissenting vote was Pape’s, and the board committed to pursuing the expansion project.