With the price tag for rebuilding the swimming pool at Burlingame High School continuously floating higher, city officials are examining ways to help pay down the cost for the highly-valued community facility.
The Burlingame City Council discussed during a study session Monday, Jan. 7, strategies for collaborating with San Mateo Union High School District officials to address the reconstruction.
As officials from both agencies have watched the projected cost for the total rebuild rise to $6.4 million, Burlingame Mayor Donna Colson expressed some sticker shock over the continuous construction cost hikes.
“It was a bit of a surprise and we have to batten down the hatches and figure out how to pay for it,” said Colson.
The most recent figure is up about $1.5 million from the $4.9 million projected in October to rebuild the facility after structural flaws were discovered last summer during scheduled maintenance.
City and school officials will share the reconstruction cost, as the pool is on school district property but city programming accounts for most of its use when students aren’t swimming.
City officials are currently responsible for allocating $1.2 million toward the rebuild, and that figure could rise as high as $2.7 million, according to a city report, but Colson said officials must wait for their school district colleagues before determining a final cost-sharing agreement.
“We are really in a position where we are waiting for the district to come back to us with a proposal,” she said.
Colson noted there is a sense of urgency for officials to rebuild the pool rapidly, as the facility is exceedingly popular with the Burlingame community.
“I think the best outcome for the community is getting this 50-meter pool back online as quick as possible,” she said.
The pool has been closed since last year, when severe issues such as insufficient rebar coverage, shell flaws and waterproofing issues, among other malfunctions were discovered by maintenance workers.
High school district officials agreed the problems with the pool were so widespread that it would be a wiser investment to rebuild the facility than fix it. The school board approved moving ahead with the rebuild late last year.
Though dismayed by the rising cost, Colson said officials agree it is smarter use of public money to collaborate on the reconstruction than examining opportunities to build a new, separate city pool. Councilmembers had briefly considered such a project, but Colson noted other, large pending capital projects like rebuilding the Recreation Center will likely preclude city officials from pursuing another expensive facility.
Looking ahead, Colson said if city officials are asked to ramp up their investment, they would be looking to lengthen the term of their use agreement at the pool. She is also hopeful school officials would be amenable to allowing the city to pay portions of the rebuild cost in installments over an extended period of time.
Colson also expressed confidence the two sides could work together on the project, as both agencies understand the importance of the pool’s availability to local residents.
“It motivates the school and the city to come to a really good agreement. And we also have to respect that an anonymous donor put a lot of money into this,” said Colson, referencing the unnamed person who made a sizable investment years ago to improve the facility.
Colson said next steps will be decided once the school district can determine the best way it can finance its portion of the rebuild.
“The ball is, I think, in the school district’s court and they need to consolidate their thoughts and ideas at the board level and come back to us,” she said.
Once the discussions progress though, she said both sides will enter the initiative with the same intent of rapidly rebuilding the pool.
“We share the same goal of getting the pool back as expeditiously as possible,” she said.
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