OPERS to Undertake $2 Million Pool Repair

Executive director says project may be financed by shared fund

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UC Santa Cruz’s Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS) is in the midst of planning an estimated $2 million project to replace the swimming pool’s 30-year-old filtration system. While the pool’s water quality currently meets Santa Cruz County health and safety standards, the filtration pump is in danger of failing. If it fails, the pool would need to be immediately closed for repair.

“The water quality is checked on a regular basis, multiple times a day and even through the night, and we have good water quality right now,” said OPERS executive director Andrea Willer. “This is a proactive strategy to replace what we know is a failing pump before it goes out.”

Willer said the majority, if not the entirety, of the project would likely be financed using the Student Life Facility Fee (SLFF) Reserve Fund. The reserve is approximately $3.5 million, and is shared between OPERS and the Student Union Governance Board (SUGB). SUGB governs various student-run spaces on campus such as the Student Media Center, Redwood Building and the Student Union.

“Of course we’ll be asking for assistance,” Willer said, “through other pots of money that may be available to OPERS in order to retain a healthy reserve here, but as of now those other revenue sources have not been identified.”

The SLFF is a $30 per student per quarter fee that passed in 1985 and paid for the construction, operation and maintenance of OPERS and the student governed spaces, as well as adding to the reserve fund shared between SUGB and OPERS. The SLFF ends this year, and last spring both OPERS and SUGB ran separate measures, 65 and 66 respectively, to continue funding their spaces.

The two bodies oversaw the reserve fund through a joint committee, but that committee has not met in over three years. Last year, OPERS suggested splitting the reserve with 90 percent of funds going to OPERS and 10 percent going to SUGB, who had initially proposed a 60-40 split. Student groups across campus spoke out against OPERS’s proposal, and the Student Union Assembly passed a resolution formally condemning it and supporting the 60-40 proposal.

Although the filtration project’s design and exact cost has not been finalized, the current plan will involve closing the pool from finals week of spring quarter 2018 until the start of fall quarter 2019 ­— about three months.

UCSC head swim coach Kim Musch said the summer closure would affect the Masters Swim Team, the Slug Aquatics team and other youth programs like Sammy Slug Camp and recreation card holders who use the pool daily.

“What we’re hoping and what we’re looking at is the possibility of [a temporary] on-deck filtration system that we can just have running while they do the work,” Musch said. “Most likely, our summer programs will have to move off-site.”

While the search for sites to host the affected summer programs has just recently begun, Santa Cruz High  School and Harvey West Pool as potential options due to their relatively low use during the summer months.

Hosting off-site would impact OPERS funds by not only cutting off revenue from hosting third-party programs at the pool but also from incurring significant costs from renting facilities. Meanwhile, one contractor quoted the cost of a temporary filtration system at $40,000, said OPERS executive director Andrea Willer.

The project will increase the filtration cycle turnover rate, though it will still not be strictly up to code due to limitations imposed by the pool’s construction. It will also replace a 30-year-old pump that is becoming increasingly difficult to repair due to part availability and physical accessibility.

The pump was first brought to Willer’s attention four years ago, when she first took a position with OPERS. The pool has never been strictly in compliance with filtration cycle turnover standards, which changed in the middle of the pool’s construction in 1985. The system was grandfathered into compliance through an agreement with the county that was extended multiple times.

Project manager David Ciolino ssaid the proposal to replace the filtration system was initially presented in 2009, when the pool was closed for retiling and other renovations, but was ultimately shelved due to a lack of available funding. That proposal was also much more expensive compared to the current project, including the construction of an entirely new building to house a completely modernized filtration system.

Ciolino said the bidding process for the project would open in fall 2017. OPERS is currently projected to begin the next fiscal year with almost $800 thousand in negative carry forward, or accumulated deficit.

Although OPERS plans to finance the project with the SLFF reserve, the allocation of the fund is approved by the executive vice chancellor. That post was just filled on Feb. 3 by Marlene Tromp.