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.
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