Indoor pool supporters seek to see facility open again

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Group offers financial help, but school board says it needs to study building options further

Though a group of area residents said they were willing to raise funds to pay for some of the cost of keeping the Benson High School indoor swimming pool open, the board of education was reluctant to give them any encouragement.

The group also told the board at its meeting last Tuesday that they would be willing to boost the number of people who use the pool.

With a 5-2 vote last May, the school board voted to close the indoor swimming pool by June 1. It cited low utilization of the pool along with an annual cost of $37,210 to maintain in justifying its closing. The district was also looking at spending another $5,000 to $25,000 on work that included replacing the pool’s lighting.

Hoping the school board might reverse its decision, several supporters of reopening the pool, met with the district’s buildings task force last fall. The task force, made up of community residents and school staff, has been studying the best use of the space the district has as it tries to address its growing need for preschool classrooms and the possibility of adding day care services for infants and toddlers.

It also has to figure where it will put its gymnastics program if the City of Benson proceeds with plans to remodel the Benson Armory for its new city hall. The BHS gymnastics program used the auditorium in the Armory for practice and its meets.

Among the spaces it has considered for expanded classroom space is the area that houses the indoor swimming pool.

“We had some ideas for fund raising and ideas for increasing utilization,” pool supporter Dan Enderson said of the group’s meeting with the task force. “The request was whether it was worth our time to go forward with that, and if we were successful, would there be consideration for reopening the pool?”

The feedback then was the school board wanted to see what the facilities task force came back with for ideas for the pool areas, he said. However, the task force has yet to develop any specific recommendations for how to best use the pool area.

“Given that the task force really had no recommendation on what to do with the pool, I would like to revisit the idea until there is a long-term decision on the use of it,” Enderson said.

“Your question is, ‘Should you go and try find money?’” Board Member Andy Abner said. When the school board voted to close the pool it did so because it wasn’t getting used and it was costing too much money to keep open, he said.

Though no decision has been made about how it could be used in the future, Abner said there are numerous options facing the board from gymnasium space, to day care, to special education space, to classrooms that still have to be decided....

 

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