Local continue push for public pool

Group wants portion of impact fees to fund Hollister aquatic center

The blue whale at Valley View Park is the sole public water feature offered to Hollister residents.

Summer may be coming to a close, but talk continues about the need for a public pool in Hollister and how it should be funded.

“What we’re here for today is to ask the city and county to include in their impact fees monies for a recreational portion of the aquatic center that the high school has generously put into their preliminary plans for the pool area,” said Jud Shutts, chief operations officer for Hollister for Aquatics, a local group advocating for a public swimming facility to representatives from Hollister, San Juan Bautista and San Benito County at last week’s intergovernmental committee meeting. “We’re basically asking you to commit impact fees—monies—to be provided for the recreational component of the aquatic center.”

Located at San Benito High School, the community aquatic center would tie-in with the school’s plan to install two new pools—one 50 meters, the other 25 yards. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

“We have set aside in the master plan for Measure U and state matching fund projects a certain portion for the recreation pool component,” said Shawn Tennenbaum, the high school superintendent. “The board has endorsed that and taken action. They have that vision. Realistically, it sits with the city and the county and the agencies to make a determination if there is that commitment to move forward.”

The final bill for a community aquatic center with slides, lazy river, splash pad and other amusements at the high school has varied since Shutts first presented the idea earlier this year in front of the same committee. Construction costs are estimated to be $6 million.

The center would be funded by the City of Hollister and San Benito County. Hollister for Aquatics would operate the center.

“I’ve talked to many of you before, but the city, county and the community residents really do need a safe place to learn to swim and do need recreational activities,” Tennenbaum said.

“Our students, student athletes and the rest of the community will benefit greatly from this project.”

Should funding for a community aquatics center fall through, the district would use the space for other school needs, said Tennenbaum.

Shutts said having both the school and recreation components at the same location would draw crowds.

“Money coming in from revenues would offset the maintenance and you’ll have something that’s self-sustaining for not only the high school but the recreation side,” Shutts said. “If you put a recreation component out in the regional park and expect it to stand on its own and make money, it’s not going to happen. But if you combine it with the aquatic center as it’s being designed right now, then that facility can be and will be self-sustaining.”

Hollister Vice Mayor Karson Klauer said he was willing to look at funding through impact fees, but said he did not see how the city could fund it as a standalone concept. He called it a chicken-and-egg scenario.

“What comes first, the community money or the government money?” Klauer asked. “I don’t know, but I don’t see either jumping out right now to make it happen.”

Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said the city should move forward with some sort of study to examine funding the proposed aquatic center with impact fees, possibly when the city updates its parks facility master plan.

“If we don’t commit to something, this will never happen,” Velazquez said.

County Supervisor Jerry Muenzer was less enthusiastic about the project.

“I’ve said this several times: before this aquatic center ever gets any support from me I need to see the private sector putting money toward it as was mentioned on the podium,” Muenzer said. “There has to be a component from the private sector.”

Muenzer suggested the cost could be split in thirds with Hollister, San Benito County and the private sector paying equal portions.

Shutts explained that Hollister for Aquatics was working with the Community Foundation of San Benito County and reaching out to private parties.

“If the commitment’s not there from the community now, the commitment won’t be there in two years or whatever time frame,” Muenzer said. “The dollars have to keep coming in to maintain this thing. To get it built is one thing but maintaining on a long-term basis is something totally different.”

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