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Pact between Snohomish city, school district means work can start on aquatic center

The city will partner with the school district, making the project possible.

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By Alejandro Dominguez
Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH -- After delaying construction on the Aquatic Center for a year, the Snohomish School District is ready to start as soon as this summer.
Thanks -- at least in part -- to the city.
The Snohomish City Council and the Snohomish School Board agreed this week to become partners on the pool, which the school district promised to build in 2008 after voters approved a $268 million school-bond package.
Now, the school district hopes to start construction some time in the summer. A tentative opening is set for fall 2013. The Aquatic Center is planned to be at the Maple Avenue Campus, 601 Glen Ave. The new pool will replace the Hal Moe Memorial Pool, which was shut down because of structural and safety issues.
The school district delayed construction of the Aquatic Center after it learned that operating the center would cost $450,000 a year more than it would bring in. The school district has been looking at ways of reducing the costs of operating the Aquatic Center ever since. One idea was to build outside of Snohomish.
It's better to build the new Aquatic Center at the Maple Avenue Campus so it could benefit people who live in Snohomish, superintendent Bill Mester said.
"With the Aquatic Center near downtown, it is easily accessible by senior citizens, by kids with the Boys & Girls Club," Mester said. "It brings vitality to the downtown area that is needed and will bring people from the outside."
To help lower operating costs, the Snohomish City Council voted this week 6-1 to help pay for the aquatic center's sewer and water bills. The city will be on the hook for $52,500 in 2013. And the city will continue to pay the sewer and water bills until 2043. The Snohomish School Board unanimously approved the agreement Wednesday evening.
The school district found other ways to cut operating costs at the new pool, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million a year to run. Mester estimates the school district still faces a $75,000 a year shortfall in operating the Aquatic Center.
To save money, the school district is redesigning the 50,000-square-foot pool complex by reducing it to one floor and having one tank of water for the recreational and therapy pool instead of two. New renderings and the design development are scheduled to be completed in March.
Delaying the construction of the pool also has helped the district save money, Mester said.
"We are going slow so we are sure that once the pool is open, we can run it," he said.
The city will receive revenue from permits and construction sales tax before it has to pay for the utilities, economic development manager Debbie Emge said.
The pool is an important project because it would attract visitors during swim meets and out-of-towners as well. The city estimates those feet on the street will bring a $3.5 million economic boost, Emge said.
The city will start seeing these impacts over time, she said.
"This is an investment to our community," Emge said.
Councilman Derrick Burke was initially against it in earlier meetings, but was one of three who changed his or her vote Tuesday night. He was persuaded by the students who showed at the meeting pushing for the deal with the school district. He also thinks that the swimming classes are important for the town's kids.
"I'm not all convinced it's a good thing financially, but I am doing this for the children," he said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422;
Story tags » Snohomish

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