Aquatic center in final stages

SNOHOMISH — In the next few weeks, hard hats will give way to swim trunks.

A small army of construction workers will thin out and then disappear, making way for generations of folks to work out and play within the spacious new Snohomish Aquatic Center.

A tour of the $22 million center earlier this week found workers making some final touches.

Water is in the pools. Walls are painted. Grass out front is thick and healthy.

During the next few weeks, final city, county and state inspections are scheduled for a variety of work. That includes electrical, plumbing, water temperatures — even the location of lifeguard stands.

Final decisions, including a fee schedule and picking the January opening date, also soon will be made.

“It’s such a tremendous asset for the community,” said Kristin Foley, a Snohomish School District spokeswoman, surveying the 52,000 square foot structure.

The school district included the pool project in a $261 million bond measure that voters passed in 2008. It is aimed to meet the needs of the community, including toddlers learning to swim, high school athletes geared for competition, families out for some fun and elderly people looking for a low-impact form of exercise.

The district will keep ownership of the aquatic center, but turn over day-to-day operations to the YMCA. The center includes a competition pool with a dive area, a recreational pool, a warm-water therapy area, a spray play area and a surf-simulation machine. There also is a curvy water slide — 20 feet high and 151 feet long — that zigs and zags outside of the building before depositing its riders into the pool.

As it plans the grand opening, the district also is reviewing allegations that a plumbing subcontractor took cost-cutting shortcuts on the aquatics center and other construction projects.

The claims were brought to the district’s attention by a Seattle television station last month, Foley said.

The district wrote an Oct. 28 email to more than 4,200 followers saying a news story was in the works and that it could raise the allegations against the subcontractor and its involvement in the pool project. One of the email recipients recently wrote an anonymous letter to the Snohomish School Board to question whether there has been adequate oversight “to ensure the quality of the facility is impeccable.”

Both the district and the main contractor have looked into the allegations and have found no evidence they are valid, Foley said. The city of Snohomish also has approved plumbing code inspections thus far.

Curt Gimmestad is the director of operations for Absher Construction, the main contractor for the aquatics center. He’s also a Snohomish High School graduate.

“As far as our obligation to the Snohomish School District, we are very confident we have done the work (to meet) the contract documents and specifications,” he said.

If any violations are discovered, Absher has guaranteed it will fix the problems with no added expense to taxpayers, Foley said.

The aquatic center, 516 Maple Ave., is at the site of the district’s former Snohomish Freshman Campus. The center is connected to the school’s former gym, commons area and band room.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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