Hargett Farm concept plan

Everybody in Frederick loves pools, but nobody has a plan to keep competition swimming in the county afloat.

At least that’s how Frederick Alderman Michael O’Connor sees it.

He sums up the situation well, said Joy Schaefer, president of the Frederick County Board of Education.

O’Connor made the comment Wednesday during a joint workshop of Mayor Randy McClement, the Board of Aldermen and the school board.

The lack of competition swimming pools available for recreational use, especially as Frederick High School is rebuilt without a pool, was at the top of the officials’ agenda.

Once students move into the new school in fall 2017, the county will have only two schools with pools — Walkersville High and Middletown High.

The two pools will be sufficient for the county’s high school swim teams but will not meet the need for recreational use, said Katie Groth, the school board’s vice president.

It is beyond the school system’s ability and responsibility to meet that need, Schaefer said. The county and city government should identify a source of funding for a pool, she said.

McClement told the board about the city’s plan to build a new aquatics center at the Hargett Farm on Butterfly Lane, with a competition swimming and diving pool, as it develops the farm into a regional park. The cost of the aquatics center has been estimated at $20 million.

The city doesn’t have the money, McClement said.

The city’s original plan was to attempt to partner with the county, school system and private organizations to fund the project, but because of the way the city financed the purchase of the Hargett Farm, there are restrictions on how the land can be used.

The city bought the property in 2009 for $18 million using tax-exempt bonds.

Under the current financing structure, the city must use the farm only for public purposes and is restricted from allowing priority use for amenities built on the land, said Katie Barkdoll, budget director for the city.

If a private swim club donated money for the pool, the city could not offer the club priority for use of the lanes, or a discount, Barkdoll said.

The bonds cannot be refinanced without an additional cost to the city until 2019, Barkdoll said; in 2019, the city could pay off the bonds with a taxable bond issue, which would eliminate the restrictions.

With the loss of the Frederick High pool in 2017, McClement said, the timing of the project is important.

Follow Jen Fifield on Twitter: @JenAFifield.

(16) comments

peachow

Can someone please explain why it costs approximately $20 million to build a pool on the Hargett property but only $5 million if they build a separate, stand-alone pool on the Frederick High School property? If the most important thing is to actually get another pool, why is the county/city not considering the FHS site?

dbjanda1

Ultimately, if it's built it will become a $50 million dog park...A lot of green for pooches to poop at...Me

elymus43

If the officials see a need for a pool, then let them use their money to pay for it. Who dreams up these ideas (i.e. downtown hotel and convention center)?

Extra Ignored

Spend $5 million and build the pool at Frederick High. It could have some open hours for the public.

shipleysinc

want not need

rbtdt5

I think a pool is a great idea. This is a huge asset to old and young alike. I hope they can figure out a way to make this happen.

kstr92

Why are we even having this discussion? Absurd! There is neither the money nor the need to build this park. And if we had the money for such an extravagance, who in their right mind would choose Butterfly Lane? This area couldn't handle the increased traffic, as the roads are horribly inadequate. Furthermore, the entire Hillcrest neighborhood is in steep decline and plagued with crime. Not exactly a welcoming environment. The City should just cut its losses, sell the property to a developer and put up affordable garden apartments which would better suit the area and the demographic.

Dwasserba

Selling it is looking preferable to hanging on. Then it could go forward with development that includes a pool.
Complexes I worked for included pool use among residents' amenities, but also sold memberships to others. So some taxpayers would be served, the ones willing to pay to swim there. The ones who aren't would be left out of it.

sofanna

I can hardly believe this aquatic playground is so important. The BOE Budget got cut and teachers lost their jobs or their pay was cut. Special education programs were cut, schools are needed or in need of expansion not portables!

This is a luxury that Frederick County or City cannot afford! Just like Montevue and Citizen's were sold, because Frederick supposedly couldn't afford them. Even if someone donates the entire cost to build this water playground, it will need to be maintained and staffed for many years. There goes our tax dollars literally down the drain.

Priorities! Does anyone understand what a realistic priority is?

rbtdt5

I can hardly believe this aquatic playground is so important. The BOE Budget got cut and teachers lost their jobs or their pay was cut.

What???!!!! NO the BOE budget was not cut. No teacher lost their job due to budget, and No teacher took a pay cut.

Extra Ignored

The BOE budget was not cut but it was not increased so to give some teachers raises other teachers lost their jobs.

Arcticdc5

Waste of tax payers dollars!

HRPufnstuf

A true treasure! My little guppys can't wait to dip their toes in the new water park! Does anyone know if they'll have slides? [tongue]

cowgal1341

why does Frederick need a water park? Is that to get people out of Gambrill?

garden whimsey

Do not waste my city tax dollars on a swimming pool that will benefit so few people.

Dwasserba

I am seeing a theme here.
It kind of goes this way with comments and polls about the downtown hotel too, but it's looking like it's just a matter of deciding who builds it.
The school teams can still be accomodated. Sometimes we live within our means.

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