If you read the opinion letters and marketing materials put forth by the District 200 board members and their lobby group, Vote Yes D200 Referendum Committee, you would think that the $25 million District 200 referendum question is for a comprehensive facilities plan with the bulk of the money going to performing arts programs and 21st-century classrooms at OPRF High School. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just $4.3M* or 9.6 percent of the project’s total revised $44.5M price tag, which includes $20M of our overtaxed dollars from the reserve fund, would be earmarked for a band room, an orchestra room and six classrooms, according to the Aug. 16 school board meeting minutes. That’s it. The rest of the money, $40.2M or 90.4 percent, would go to a 40-meter, 25-yard pool; locker rooms; and demolishing the structurally sound garage with at least 25 more years of service life and building a smaller replacement garage, which would not meet current parking needs, a few hundred feet to the west to squeeze in the mega pool.
Clearly, it’s not a facilities plan but a pool plan, which is driving the entire project and its costs. The board’s plan on the ballot is a Mercedes pool with a few extras thrown in in hopes of broadening support among voters. It’s close but not quite as luxurious as last year’s failed Mercedes pool effort by the board and its pool lobby to bypass voters and build a $37.5M, 50-meter, Olympic-size pool that would have demolished the parking garage and eliminated all parking at a school of 3,200 students. Note that the $11M repurposing cost of the existing pools was not included in the $37.5M price tag. It would have raised the cost to $48.5M. That would have been some natatorium and at a supreme cost to taxpayers.
The school’s own architects, Legat, developed and vetted, along with school officials, another pool plan, a pragmatic one that meets all of the school’s needs and its pools cost millions less than the Mercedes pool on the ballot. If similar cuts were made to the pragmatic plan as the $9.5M cuts that were made to the board’s plan, the price tag for the pragmatic plan would cost $15 million less.
One way to cut its costs further would be to repurpose and renovate the 2,000 square feet of under-utilized lecture halls, rooms 370/371, at the school. Yet there is no plan to renovate these spaces for performing arts or any purpose. Why is this “green” reuse option dormant? Why is there no effort to reconfigure these existing spaces and others rather than building a massive addition?
We believe the board’s proposed addition and its oversized 40-meter pool would significantly increase the school’s total operating costs. Despite repeated requests, the school has yet to disclose the estimate for this increased annual cost to taxpayers. Why not?
Vote NO in NOvember to the $25 million, District 200 pool bond referendum question. Let’s solve the pool problem without going overboard.
* Vote Yes D200 puts this figure at $4.8 million. Pragmatic Pool Solutions uses a figure of $4.3 million.
Bridgett Baron, Jack Davidson, Amanda Massie, and Monica Sheehan are members of OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions (D200VoteNO@gmail.com).