Salem board moves forward with $3M pool renovation

By: 
Kate Wehlann, Staff Writer

During the April Salem School Board meeting, a motion to move forward with a pool renovation project and security upgrades at the school failed to pass and was tabled until May. Monday evening, the motion was picked back up again, but with some changes.

There was no security upgrade discussion and last month’s plans regarding the pool were stripped down further to reduce cost.

“We are exploring security options at this time,” said Superintendent Lynn Reed.

The mechanics and structural changes to the pool itself remain the same, but the proposed idea to install an accordion glass wall for spectators on the spectator area has been scrapped.

“We’ve gone back to just the glass wall instead of the foldable glass wall,” said John Hawkins, the architect on the project. “This is the bare bones version of the project.”

The pool has been in bad shape for some time and hasn’t seen a real upgrade in its more than 40 years of service. Hawkins showed photos of the conditions of the pool, pump room, boilers and ceiling, showing damage over time and the need to replace and renovate the space.

Instead of building another pump room, the school will shift the pumps and electrical room to other spaces already in existence. 

The pool renovations will cost $2.4 million, with a total of $3.13 projected to be bonded after “soft costs” like interest and bond issuance are paid. This would raise the tax rate by about 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Representatives from H.J. Umbaugh and Associates reported a $50,000 homestead with a $10,000 net assessed value would see a rise in 26 cents per month, which translates to $3.06 per year. A $99,500 homestead with a net assessed value of $32,425 would be 83 cents per month and just less than $10 per year. Agricultural land is set to rise by 4 cents per month (49 cents per year) and commercial/rental property is set to rise $2.55 a month per $100,000 value ($30.60 per year).

Umbaugh’s Belvia Gray said the school’s debt would be repaid by 2025.

Monroe Township Trustee Susan Boling and David Norton thanked board member Erika Garloch for facilitating tours of the pool area to give them a better idea of what needed to be done.

“It really showed us what was going on there and the various problems,” said Boling. “I want to thank Mr. [Dan] Mullins and Scotty [Martin], too, who came out of retirement to talk to us. He’s worth a million dollars. Too bad he didn’t stay a few more years.”

She also thanked JD Wade-Swift. She added that she was glad the school had done away with the idea of the folding glass wall due to the humidity in the pool.

“In the beginning, I felt fixing the pool was the most needed of all the things being proposed,” said Norton. “If you’ve got something, you have to maintain it. I’m not crazy about adding stuff, but maintaining what you’ve got — once you lose it, it can be very hard to get it back … It’s hard to keep a pool going.”

Swim team co-captain Griffin Temple, along with some of his fellow swim team members, were present at the meeting and spoke about how important the pool was to them. He asked if the school was going to install new floors and starting blocks in the pool, which he said are sometimes wobbly and can pose a safety risk. He made the argument that because of the humidity in the pool, the current glass wall fogs up and spectators can’t always see. 

Cora Saunders, along with other swimmers, made the point that the pool isn’t just for the swim team, but the middle school PE students and the YMCA and community.

“Other schools [are affected by the state of the SMS pool],” she added. “There’s been times we’ve had to cancel practices and meets, even, because lack of equipment function or space.” Like many of the swimmers, Temple wanted to know how long the project would take. He and other members of the team are going to be seniors and are worried their high school swimming careers could be affected.

Hawkins said the pool would not be ready for swimming for about a year and a half.

“We’re looking at six to nine months of engineering time and nine months to a year of construction, depending on how we space it and stagger it out across summers,” he said.

“We will find a place for you to swim,” said Reed.

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