The revitalization of Columbia Pool took another step forward Wednesday night as the Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission voted to recommend one of three different renovation options to the Turlock City Council.
In July, the PARC and the Council held a special joint meeting where they were presented with several options for a remodel of Columbia Pool. While the pool is currently closed due to COVID, a facility evaluation study conducted last fall found a total of 18 violations which would keep the pool shut down even without a pandemic. Since the swimming pool was built in 1957, it has undergone minor renovations and facility updates. The pool has only been replastered once, in 1999.
During that meeting, an Ad Hoc Committee comprised of PARC Chair Brent Bohlender, Commissioner Randy Icelow and Commissioner Allison Jeffery was formed to begin community outreach and decide which option would be best for Turlock residents. Since then, they have collected input via social media, email, telephone and an online survey.
On Wednesday, the results of that survey were presented to the PARC and shed light on which option the community preferred as well as who uses the pool and why.
The three options presented to the public, PARC and Council were labeled A, B and C. Option A would renovate the existing pool and cost $1.8 million, Option B would remove the pool entirely and create a larger spray park for $2.5 million and Option C would upgrade the existing pool and splash park, update the chemical and mechanical equipment and take care of other necessary repairs with a cost of $6.3 million.
Based on community feedback, the Ad Hoc Committee recommended Option C and the PARC voted unanimously to recommend that choice to the City Council.
“From the moment that this became an agenda item, the phrase ‘Save Our Pool’ has been the most common phrase that I have been tagged in on any social media platform and included in emails. I have had people stop me at the grocery store...people who knew me would find me to tell me that they wanted to save their pool,” Jeffery said. “I think if District 2 hears nothing else, I want you to hear that we heard you and we were very passionate about trying to follow what you told us when you gave us surveys, when you sent us emails and when you called on the phone.”
In the online survey, which received feedback on the renovation from Nov. 10 through Dec. 4, a majority of the 809 responses came from Turlock’s Districts 1 and 2 and were in both Spanish and English. A representative from O’Dell Engineering, who administered the survey, said the responses received were twice the amount they expected.
Over 350 respondents reported having lived in their current residence for 10 or more years. Over 300 stated they never use Columbia Pool, while just over 225 said they use it monthly or daily. A majority of those who don’t use the pool said they didn’t know about the services, or that they didn’t visit the pool because they “don’t feel safe.” Most who do use the pool regularly reported utilizing the facility for recreational swimming and swim lessons, or to stay cool during the summer months.
When it came to the three revitalization options, Option C was ranked first, Option A was ranked second and Option B was ranked third. The difference between Option A and Option C was 17 votes, with both options receiving over 200.
“C is expensive, but to me it’s the only thing for the future. I think they need the pool,” Commissioner Robert Holly said. “If you look at where the pools are located at this point in time, they’re all on one side of the city and I think having the pool in Columbia is a realistic thing for District 2 and the surrounding areas, too.”
The rest of the PARC agreed.
“Looking at those results and having 800-something submissions says clearly that the public is concerned and they're interested in this,” Commissioner Keristofer Seryani said. “I think we have to figure out a way to come up with the financing of Option C, but Option C is the only way to go.”
Following the recommendation, the item will go before the City Council for approval in January. From there, the City will look into funding options.
When the Master Plan was originally introduced in July, it was believed that the City would be able to apply for grant funding in order to complete the project, however, the pool’s hours make the project ineligible for funding since it is open less than seven days per week. There were also other factors in determining that the Columbia Pool would likely not receive grant funding, like the fact that it’s an already-existing location rather than a new park and that the project is a rehabilitation endeavor rather than expansion.
“Recognizing this is a very passionate issue for the entire community, I’m proud of the fact that despite maybe differing opinions or passionate conversations, we were able to stay on course and work through that,” Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder said. “I think we have a process we can all be very proud of and I think it can stand up very well when we’re looking for different funding opportunities.”