Pondering the city pool

Published in the Argus Observer September 19, 2014.

ONTARIO—The fate of the Ontario Aquatic Center was the topic of Thursday’s City Council work session, which took place in the midst of a packed house.

“The Aquatic Center is a thing of great interest to the Council Members and to the community,” Mayor Leroy Cammack said, “As a council we’re very supportive of trying to get the Aquatic Center going again.”

Cammack explained to the audience that a committee was formed earlier this year, which has helped guide the City Council in the matter.

“We’ve been looking at a lot of things since that time but it’s been difficult to find the right approach and to find the funds to accomplish what we’re willing to do,” Cammack said.

The Aquatic Center, which was built in 1983, has been closed since September of last year. Alan Daniels, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Ontario, told the Council and audience that there are a few issues with the building and equipment to clear up before the Aquatic Center can be open to the community.

“The boiler and the roof ventilation systems are at the end of their useful life,” Daniels said, “We’ve had two sets of engineers tell us that we should not even try to start it up.”

According to estimates, the cost of repairing or replacing the heating and ventilation in the building would be between ½ and ¾ of a million dollars.

“That would be going into the mechanical room and pulling everything out and starting over.” Daniels explained, “It’s 30 years old and it’s pretty clogged up.”

The facility’s original roof was made of plank cedar with a layer of ply board and the roofing material on the top. The problem was that when the cold weather hit, the evaporated water would consolidate  and then rain onto Aquatic Center patrons.

“About 15 years ago they put styrofoam on it, but they didn’t put on a vapor barrier. Now, the original roof is very good, but the added on areas are saturated,” Daniels said.

The cost of operating the Aquatic Center is nearly $300,000 a year and when it was originally built, the City of Ontario obtained a federal grant of just under $500,000 which must be given back to the federal government if the building is no longer used as a recreation center.

Daniels suggested a solution to the Aquatic Center dilemma would be to fill in the pool with reject sand, cover it in cement, and turn it into a youth and community recreation center.

“Then I can work on a grant to put an outdoor pool next to it,” Daniels said.

Public Works Director, Cliff Leeper and CH2MHILL have also been looking into the project and will be partnering with Daniels in order to come up with some solutions. One of their ideas was to bring in a representative from the YMCA in order to evaluate the situation further.

Ontario citizen and Vice President of Operations at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, Ken Hart, and  also weighed in on the topic. Hart has children who are on the swim team that routinely used the pool before it was closed. He also sent patients to the indoor pool to do rehabilitation exercises before the Aquatic Center’s doors were closed.

“I’m also a citizen and taxpayer of Ontario and I really want us to do something,” Hart said, “Let’s use the space for something good and not allow it to sit.”

Hart emphasized that citizens of Ontario and the Council Members all know that this project will cost a large amount of money. He cautioned against putting off a decision.

“I don’t think that you’re kicking the can down the road, but you’ve got to make that decision at the end of the day,” Hart told the Council, “Don’t  delay, because despite what the next set of engineering plans says, it’s going to be expensive.”

The Council decided to pursue an attempted meeting with representatives from the YMCA and asked Daniels to work with Leeper and CH2MHILL in order to come up with some solutions to the renovations needed at the Aquatic Center.

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