Sonora Union High School District officials have a received a copy of the proposed contract from Tuolumne County for public use of Sonora High’s new Aquatics Center over the summer.

District Superintendent Pat Chabot said he plans to meet with county officials one last time on Monday before presenting the contract to the district’s Board of Trustees to consider at a public meeting the following night, just three days before the county’s summer recreation programs are scheduled to begin.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic summer season for the community to use our pool and our water polo team to practice in their own facilities,” he said. “We’re going to meet with them (county officials) on Monday to go over the hours of operation and when our water polo team will be practicing.”

To accommodate the practices, the county Recreation Department has cut back the open swim by an hour from 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The open swims in previous years went until 5 p.m. each day.

The last swim lessons each day will also end earlier, at 5:45 p.m. as opposed to 7 p.m.

“We need to sit down with them one more time to make sure everyone has a good understanding of the county’s hours and high school’s hours,” said Deputy County Administrator Daniel Richardson, who oversees the Recreation Department.

Richardson said the law doesn’t allow the public to use the pool while the school’s using the pool because of liability concerns, as well as the fact it wouldn’t make much practical sense to have team practices occurring while young children are also learning to swim.

The two sides have met several times since January to hammer out the details of the new contract, as this will be the first summer that the public will get to use the pool at the school’s $6 million Aquatics Center.

Last summer, the recreation programs took place at the former Sonora Memorial Pool that has since been filled in with dirt.

Funding for the Aquatics Center came from the $23 million Measure J bond approved by Sonora Union High School District voters in November 2012 that was billed as a way to finance the renovation, construction and modernization of facilities at the school.

“It’s a fantastic facility the school has built, and the citizens paid for it, so we want them to come out and use it as much as they can,” Richardson said. “At the same time, we want the high school to be successful with their swimming programs.”

Richardson said he and county Recreation Supervisor Eric Aitken met with parents involved in the school’s aquatics program a couple of times over the course of the contract negotiation to hear their desires, as well as Chabot to understand the school’s needs.

The contract is typically approved by April or May each year. Though it took some additional time this year, both school and county officials say the details of the contract are largely the same as in the past outside of the slightly altered hours of use.

There are also provisions in the contract for the county to use other facilities at the school over the summer for its various sports camps, including basketball, baseball and volleyball.

Richardson said the cost for the county to rent the pool throughout the summer remains the same in the new contract at $15,000.

“This is not a money-making business for the county,” Richardson said of the annual summer recreation programs. “The fees only cover a percentage of the county’s costs.”

Excluding the Standard Park Sports Complex and youth centers, the net cost for the county to offer the recreation programs each year is close to $500,000.

Parents who paid to sign their children up for summer programs at the pool were told by the county that their money would be refunded if an agreement with the school wasn’t reached, which spurred concern about the contract not being finalized a week before the programs are scheduled to start.

Richardson said the county refunds any fees for services that are interrupted for any reason, such as the pool being closed due to chemical levels being imbalanced or other safety reasons.

“All indications are that we’ll have the agreement approved on time,” he said. “There should be no interruption of services and should be business as normal.”

In addition to the pool at Sonora High, the county also offers recreation swims, lessons and other aquatics programs at pools at Columbia Elementary School in Columbia and community pools in Tuolumne and Twain Harte.

The scheduling at the other three pools will remain the same as in the past, though most fees have increased between 50 cents and $1 based on a recently conducted fee study.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.




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