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HMS pool to see upgrades in 2012

When the Hastings YMCA started working on plans to build its pool, the school district thought it might have an opportunity. If the YMCA was willing and able to build a diving/lap pool, the school could send its swim teams there to practice and start a diving team.

While the partnership was being discussed, the district put off a number of large repairs to its own pool, housed in the middle school. Instead of investing large chunks of cash in a pool whose use was uncertain, the district took a patchwork approach to repairs at the facility, explained school board and facilities committee member Dan Cater.

Discussions with the YMCA have long since been closed, and patching problems as they arise is no longer an option for the middle school pool. The Hastings Area Swim Team is well aware of the fact, and just a few months ago set a proposal before the school board to have the pool's problems fixed in a major way.

The biggest issues at the pool are the air and water quality. In their old age, water filtration systems and gutters have become less effective, leaving more waste in the water. To combat the grime in the water, more chemicals were added, Cater said.

One possible solution to the water quality issue is installing an ultra-violet disinfecting system that would require fewer chemicals.

"So it's less harsh on the people using the facility," said Kim Olson, HASTs head coach.

Air quality is a concern for swimmers and spectators alike. When there are a lot of people in the water swimming hard, as happens at swim practices, the water is stirred up, releasing into the air the chloramines used to disinfect the water, Olson said. Those gasses need to be drawn out of the facility by the air, but right now, the middle school's pool doesn't have a system adequate enough to handle the load, especially with the increase in chemical use.

The chemical in the air is what makes spectators eyes burn, and Olson suspects it's not helping her swimmers' respiratory systems, either, as swimming requires a high level of physical exertion.

"There are times when the pool is so bad that we have to change our practice procedure to not work so hard," Olson said.

The district has had pool repairs on its list of things to do already, but in October, HAST gave a helping hand in the process by submitting a few project proposals.

"They volunteered to add a little structure to what we were already looking at," Cater said.

HAST wanted to provide ideas that would not only serve its own program, but also other swimming programs as well as features that would attract more community use at the pool.

One option, the cheapest, was a simple re-tiling and mechanical job. The second proposal added more advanced gutter system as well as a stainless steel lining, which would have a higher initial cost but would be cheaper to maintain, Cater said. The third option included the addition of a zero-entry warm water pool.

"That was the most expensive plan, and that one probably didn't get much consideration," Cater said.

The school board has yet to decide between the two cheaper options. Superintendent Tim Collins said a decision could come in the next three to four months.

Either way, the work is tentatively scheduled to be done in the summer of 2012. The delay is a result of two factors. The district wanted to do the work in the summertime so it would have the lowest impact on school programs, and this summer will already be busy for the school as it finishes work on the middle school addition.

While HAST is doing what it can to help, the burden of paying for the repairs falls on the district.

"We want to work with the school district. We want to help out," Olson said. "But we don't have the funds to fix this pool."

An exact cost won't be known until the project is bid, but the district is expecting the price to be somewhere in the $1 million range, Collins said.