Aquatic center location raises more concerns

  • Friday, February 28, 2014

Among the many construction projects progressing in Dorchester School District Two there has yet to be a definite location for a new aquatic center.

For two years a new aquatic center has been discussed within the school district. In 2012, a bond referendum agreed to support plans for a $7.5 million aquatics center.

Now there is a possibility the school district will let the Summerville Family YMCA build a 25-meter pool in town. However, some people are objecting to letting the Y pursue the pool project. Some locals are in favor of building a bigger pool in North Charleston instead.

During the DD2 Board of Trustees meeting Monday night Mike Rose, local attorney on the DD2 Bond Referendum Public Oversight Committee (OC) and former state senator, took the podium to address board members on the OC’s opposition to building a pool with the Y just yet.

Rose included a letter from the OC distributed to board members, claiming the Y is “getting preferential treatment regarding the aquatics center.”

“The OC is not necessarily opposed to the Y having a project,” Rose told the Summerville Journal Scene. “What we’re opposed to is the board having preference to the Y.”

Meanwhile the City of North Charleston wishes to construct a larger pool in a different location – ideally North Charleston itself. Dorchester County Council member Larry Hargett said the bond referendum did not mention any involvement with the Y in the first place.

Hargett said he likes the idea of a pool being built in North Charleston, saying it would be a bigger, “Olympic-sized” pool in a better location.

“I’m in favor of North Charleston working with Dorchester District Two,” Hargett said. “North Charleston is a great partner.”

The site of the pool in North Charleston would be right by Fort Dorchester High School. Hargett said this location would be more convenient for the public.

The letter to DD2 board members from the OC stated the school district plans to build and own the pool, but not operate it. The estimated cost of operating the smaller pool proposed near Summerville is “about $850,000 annually according to the YMCA.”

The letter goes on to say North Charleston’s proposal to build and operate a larger pool in partnership with the district could involve the city contributing millions to the construction cost.

“The city has long-term plans to build a public pool near the Dorchester Road corridor, and piggybacking on the school district’s funding could accelerate that plan,” OC members wrote in the letter.

While Rose asked DD2 board members to not make any final decisions with the Y yet, board Chairwoman Gail Hughes said a selected location for the aquatic center is, in fact, not set in stone, but added the board does feel some obligation to the Y because the bond referendum was based on partnering with the Y.

“We, as a district, are committed to our community,” she said. “Just to be a good partner we accepted the Y’s invitation because it was their idea and helped to get this bond referendum passed.

“We do not want to exhaust our options with anyone at this point,” she said. “The public has the right to help us decide. All options are still on the floor.”

Hughes said she has heard some people say they do not want a pool in North Charleston. “We’re trying to do the right thing for our community and our students,” she said. “We’re taking our time.”

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