COOLIDGE — For Lisa Hatch, this year’s election cycle is slightly different compared to the usual hubbub that generally surrounds elections. Locally, no seats for political office are up for election and, for 2019, voters will only be receiving mailed ballots.
In Coolidge, however, two issues will be determined by the 2019 election — a question that, if approved, would enable the Coolidge Unified School District to sell up to $21 million in bonds that would fund improvements to some of the district’s aging facilities, like the Coolidge Performing Arts Center, and a proposition for the issuance of $5 million in bonds by the city of Coolidge that would fund the construction of a new aquatic center.
Proposition 434 proposes to add a secondary tax rate of about $0.49 to $0.73 on residential and commercial properties in Coolidge. In a study session of the Coolidge City Council held in August, city officials noted that they are targeting an average tax rate of about $0.49 to $0.50.
For a homeowner with a property valued at $100,000, the average addition to the property tax bill would be $49.62 per year.
Money derived from the bonds would fund the construction of an aquatic center that would replace the current facility operated as part of an intergovernmental agreement between CUSD and the city. A portion of the funds would also be put toward road improvements along Northern Avenue between Arizona Boulevard and Ninth Street.
The city and the school district share in the cost of the maintenance and operation of the pool located at Coolidge High School, 684 W. Northern Ave.
Construction on the facility, which features a six-lane pool, a guard room, two onsite restrooms and a section where younger children can swim, was completed in 1986. More than 30 years later, however, many of the features that are integral in the operation of the pool are now outdated.
“My fear is that it’s going to go away,” Hatch said. Hatch is the committee chair for the action committee “Citizens Improving Coolidge,” which formed in hopes of passing Prop. 434.
“We’ve already had it happen,” she said. “Central Arizona College’s pool is gone.”
CAC’s Signal Peak Campus closed its pool in 2016, citing its age and safety hazards as the primary reasons.
A mother of three, Hatch says she is fairly familiar with the current condition of the city pool as her children use the facility for swim lessons and athletic programs.
The facility’s age raises some concerns for her.
From the age of the cool decking to the pool’s reliance on a gas chlorine system and its outdated filtration system, the current state of the facility poses a number of potential safety hazards, she said.
In previous public meetings, city officials confirmed that changing out gas chlorine can pose potential safety and health concerns if not done properly. In its gas form, chlorine is toxic and exposure to it can lead to symptoms such as difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting and headache.
In September, a government claim was filed against the Santa Monica-Mailbu Unified School District in California after several students became ill after they were exposed to toxic levels of chlorine gas that resulted from a leak at Santa Monica High School’s pool.
Beyond concerns regarding the pool’s chlorine system, Coolidge’s public pool also faces a number of other challenges in light of its age.
Having served as the swim coach this past summer, Hatch noted that one of the biggest challenges facing those who participate in swim team is that the pool has only six lanes versus the traditional eight lanes ideal for swim competitions.
The limited number of lanes means that swim competitions take longer, she said.
“Eight lanes could cut (swim meet times) at least an hour, if not more,” she said. “And then that allows more time for the pool to be open for other people.”
The overall size of the facility is also a challenge when it comes to the limited amount of shade structures around the pool. Hatch noted that during swim meets parents currently often have to bring in pop-up tents to keep cool due to the lack of shade around the pool.
In addition, Hatch said that the current layout of the pool is not ideal for younger children given its overall depth. Although the facility also features a shallower pool for younger children, Hatch said that its overall state of disrepair deters her from letting her children use it.
By contrast, a new facility would incorporate features that could be used more readily by children. Conceptual designs released by the city of Coolidge show that a new aquatic center would likely include more kid-friendly design elements such as a splash pad, an aquatic play unit or, potentially, a water slide alongside an eight-lane competition pool.
Designs also feature elements that would incorporate more shade around the aquatic center, including covered bleachers.
However, the most recent designs released by the city of Coolidge are only conceptual, officials said.
Still, the new facility would likely be larger as the city plans to use the former tennis courts, which currently function as a make-shift parking lot for pool goers, to expand the pool.
“I think it’s just overall more family friendly than what we’ve got,” Hatch said.