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City-school partnerships: Getting into swim of things

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POSTED November 3, 2017 1:54 a.m.

The City of Manteca has a swimming pool built 60 years ago when the community had a population of less than 10,000.
Two blocks away Manteca High has an older, inadequately sized swimming pool for a campus of 1,500 students let alone for a campus of 2,250 that the school board has decided is the best way to accommodate the coming growth.
The campuses of Manteca High, Lincoln Park, and Lincoln School are contiguous.
Swimming pools aren’t cheap. They can set you back $4.5 million plus.
Then there is the issue of ongoing maintenance, other pressing concerns, and limited resources.
The proverbial ability to not only kill two birds with one stone exists, but with it the ability to have an eagle as opposed to a pigeon.
Mayor Steve DeBrum and Councilman Mike Morowit have started exploring the feasibility of joint ventures with their school district counterparts wherever possible to maximize taxpayer resources as well as to leverage other advantages for both the community and school especially in and around the Manteca High campus.
Add to the mix Councilman Gary Singh who sees a joint swimming pool project as being feasible.
While Singh notes such an initiative could be pursued in the developing areas south of the 120 Bypass — perhaps on Tinnin Road where the school district has land for a future high school site — it seems an ideal fit to do in central Manteca where the networking of the Manteca High and Lincoln School campuses with Lincoln Park could complement downtown as a de facto community center or gathering place.
You’d get rid of the two existing pools and replace them with one new swimming pool.
A swimming pool is ideal for a join city-school use. There is no current overlapping use periods. The city opens Lincoln Pool when the school year ends and closes it before the next school year starts.
The city has placed the cost of upgrading the existing Lincoln Pool footprint at $2 million. A new swimming pool that is typically built today for general community use or a high school comes in at $4.5 million.
Split the cost 50-50 and instead of the city and the school district each spending $4.5 million apiece or $9 million for their own swimming pools they could up with a pool or $2.25 million. The costs may be kept down, or reduced, by using existing taxpayer owned land. And as Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer has pointed out, the city wouldn’t have to build a parking lot if the swimming pool is strategically located fairly close to the school parking lot that isn’t used during the summer.
Singh believes one way to keep costs down is to have developers build the swimming pool and then turn it over turnkey ready to the city and school district and then give the developers credit toward the community parks fees they pay per home built. If that is allowed by the State Architect’s Office that has final say on school site construction, the developers would not likely be on the hook for paying the highest prevailing wage as school districts and cities are under state and federal law when public money is involved. That would get the city more bang for the buck.
Then there is the issue of swimming pool maintenance costs. Both the district and city can realize some savings since a swimming pool has to be maintained even when it’s not in use.
And depending upon where a swimming pool could be located in reworking the Manteca High and Lincoln School campuses along with Lincoln Park as if they were one, you could increase its use and even set the stage for recreation uses during the school year at times when it isn’t used by the school.
Locating, as an example, near Moffat Boulevard means children could use the city’s separated bike path system with the Tidewater Bikeway as the backbone to travel fairly safely on bicycles from various Manteca neighborhoods north toward Lathrop Road and south toward Woodward Park.
Accessibility and exposure to encourage greater use is almost as important as initial cost given the more people using a facility the more effective it is as a community investment.
It goes without saying the only way in many cases the Manteca Unified School District can maximize amenities for its students and for the City of Manteca for its residents is for them to find common ground where they leverage maximum return from growth fees and other funding sources.
The next 100 years for Manteca requires forward thinking to move the community to the next level as we inch toward 124,500 residents by 2040.
DeBrum, Singh, and Morowit are on the right track and so are their colleagues.
The big question is can they deliver?

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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