School, City Negotiate Community-Use Pool Terms in $270K Safety Officer Deal

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A beach city in California is negotiating with the school district in a mutually beneficial deal that renews water recreation options for residents and funds a safety officer for the school. 

Officials with the City of Imperial Beach, Calif., and the Sweetwater Union High School District are working to create an agreement that benefits the school and offers recreational water opportunities to city residents.

Imperial Beach is a beach town that hasn't had access to its shoreline or a public pool for several months, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report. 

Council members approved an agreement on Nov. 2 with the Sweetwater Union High School District to allow public use of a world-class swimming pool soon to open at Mar Vista High School.

On Monday, SUHSD board members were expected to consider signing the contract, district spokesperson Nadege Johnson told the newspaper. If approved, the agreement would take effect in January and expire in June 2024, at which point it could be renewed for an additional three years. 

In exchange for public use of the pool, the city would provide Mar Vista with a full-time school resource officer, which the school does not yet have. The county sheriff’s department, which serves Imperial Beach, said it could provide an officer as early as February, according to city staff and as reported by the Union-Tribune.

The position will cost Imperial Beach $270,000 per year. The cost breakdown includes $92,000 for the officer’s salary and benefits; $80,000 for equipment such as a patrol vehicle and maintenance services; $23,000 in overhead charges for ancillary and administrative support; $25,000 in start up costs and the remaining in overtime charges, the Union-Tribune reported.

The new agreement allows for community swim time, youth and adult swim lessons, water fitness classes and public safety personnel training. Once open, a tentative schedule would include lap swim access in the mornings three times a week and some weekend access.

Mayor Serge Dedina told the newspaper the pool would greatly benefit Imperial Beach and greater South County, especially at a time when the city has faced repeated beach closures over polluted waters and drowning remains a leading cause of death among children.

“It’s clear that swimming pools and the ocean really play an important role in just keeping us healthy. But we’re missing the ocean and the pool even though we’re a beach town,” he said.

Imperial Beach has had a partnership with the school district over community use since the original pool opened nearly 60 years ago. But the new agreement serves as a fresh handshake between them, promising access to a state-of-the-art facility in a municipality that has prioritized growing recreational opportunities for its residents.

“This is just the beginning of rebuilding what has been a decades-long partnership. And it also coincides with our new Parks and Recreation program,” said Dedina.

The working-class city of about 27,000 has had few recreational options after the city dissolved its recreation department in 2014 due to budget cuts.

Dedina has led efforts to reinstate the department. So far, the city has hired a parks and recreation director; allocated millions in stimulus funding for its sports park, a multi-use field and community centers; and installed fitness equipment at its Veterans Park, the Union-Tribune reported.

Mar Vista’s new pool would be the latest to join the list. The school district expects to have it open in December.

The facility will include a 62-meter competition pool with 21 lanes, a new pool deck, diving boards, a timing system and a scoreboard. These features will allow for two water polo matches simultaneously, according to the district. The site will also have new family restrooms, outdoor showers, shaded structures and bleachers that can accommodate about 400 people.

The $22-million project to replace the 1965 pool has been in the works for about four years. It had served as the only on-campus aquatics facility in the school district, and while it was serviceable, its wear and tear worsened over recent years. Demolition work began in 2020, but it displaced swimmers in Mar Vista and Southwest schools.

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