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Paynesville Press - January 8, 2003

School board seeks input on pool project

By Michael Jacobson

At its next meeting - on Tuesday, Jan. 14 - the Paynesville Area School Board is expected to discuss whether the school district should allow part of its property to be used for a community pool. The public is invited to give input to the board on this topic.

Last fall, the pool committee identified two school sites as the best places for an aquatic park. The top site, as rated for visibility, space, and proximity to other recreation, is the northern half of the ag plot, just south of the middle school parking lot. The second site is the athletic field between the high school student parking lot and the armory. In December, representatives of the pool committee approached the school board to see if the school had any interest in cooperating with this project and asked the school board to make a decision by the end of January.

community pool project The pool committee is trying to put together a pool proposal to bring to the public and then gauge interest in the project. On the advice of its consultant, USAquatics, the pool committee is concentrating on an outdoor aquatic park, not just a box pool. An aquatic park, with more features and attractions, should keep people at the pool longer and should hopefully operate at a close to a breakeven level, through greater usage, better concession sales, etc.

USAquatics has also advised that an indoor pool, which has higher construction and operating costs, only works in communities of less than 15,000 people in a cooperative effort with a school district.

The pool committee has approached the school district to see if there is any interest in allowing a community pool to be built on school property. The top two sites for a pool, as identified by the pool committee, are located on school property. The top site (Site #1) is the northern half of the ag plot, and the second site (Site #2) is the athletic field between the student parking lot and the armory. The school board is planning to discuss this request, including getting input from the public, at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 8 p.m. in the media center at the elementary school. A decision is due by the end of January.

The pool committee has identified four possible sites: the two school sites and two city well sites (one north of Highway 55 by the Chladek Addition and the other on the east side of town near the Morningside Addition). The sites were judged on size (a minimum of three to five acres is needed), cost of developing (including utilities), location and accessibility, and visibility.

The school grounds already have baseball and softball fields and tennis courts, have ample parking, and are visible from Highway 23 and the golf course, helping to give the two school pool sites the highest rankings from the pool committee. The south site, which got the highest rating, faces zoning restrictions for the new airport. For safety, once the new airstrip is built, some of the uses for land in Zone A will be parking, practice athletic fields, and agriculture. The airport zoning was approved in March 2001 despite the objections of the school board, who were concerned that the zoning will prohibit the construction of school buildings in either Zone A or B.

City engineers, however, have identified 5.8 acres between the middle school parking lot and the airport zoning where an aquatic park could be built. And while the pool would need to be located outside the airport zoning, additional recreational features for the aquatic park - basketball hoops, sand volleyball courts, playground, even a skateboard park - possibly could be located within the restricted zone.

The second school site - between the high school student parking lot and the armory - was the approved site for the last pool project in the 1990s. Back then, the school board approved allowing this land to be used for a pool. This site, a mere three acres in size, is also on the small side for an aquatic park.

Following the discussion and input at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the school board is expected to make a decision about the pool proposal at their second meeting in January: on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

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