CLOVER — EDITORS NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of articles looking at the upcoming Clover School District bond referendum focusing on one of five proposed construction projects.
Clover School District leaders are hoping a proposed aquatic center will make a splash with Lake Wylie and Clover residents when they vote March 22 on the $67 million bond referendum.
The total estimated cost of the construction package is $99 million, school officials say, but the district will make a $32 million down payment. There are five construction projects addressed in the bond.
The $14 million aquatic and fitness center would be built on land owned by the district next to Crowders Creek Elementary School on S.C. 274 in Lake Wylie. It would be owned by the district and operated in partnership with the Upper Palmetto YMCA.
The plan will mirror very closely the partnership Rock Hill School District and the YMCA have running the Rock Hill Aquatic Center on Rawlinson Road, said Mychal Frost, Clover School District public information officer.
Moe Bell, CEO of Upper Palmetto YMCA, said the Rock Hill aquatic center has taught 1,800 to 2,000 students every year to swim since opening in February 2005.
For us, its another way to meet our mission to develop Christian personality through programs and its a good partnership, he said.
District Superintendent Marc Sosne has said the aquatics center is important because Clover needs to teach swimming lessons to students, and have a place for its high school swim team to practice and compete.
Sosne says swimming is a life skill students in a lakeside community need to learn.
The YMCA is able to provide programs and swim lessons we want to address with our students, Frost said. It marries our desires with another community organization and provides a facility to our community that is something we see as a positive.
According to survey results released in November by independent research firm K12 Insight, 76 percent approved of the partnership with the YMCA, while 24 percent opposed it or needed more information about it. A total of 1,802 community members participated in the survey conducted Oct. 15 to Nov. 1, including parents, students, employees and residents in the districts attendance zones.
Rose Cummings, chairwoman of the Vote Yes for Education steering committee and members of the YMCA advisory board, said shes hopeful the community will want this.
Every student needs to learn to swim, she said, and to be part of curriculum is such an awesome opportunity.
Frost said there is about 30 acres available for development where the aquatics center would be built.
The facility would occupy an estimated 10 acres for the facility, parking and possible water park, he said.
The aquatics facility would be about 55,000 square feet, Frost said, and the main center would include two indoor pools one cool water, one warm a basketball gym with elevated track around it, fitness rooms and weight room, and additional space, possibly for racquetball or school needs.
The additions could include 10,000 square feet for meeting spaces and classrooms, Frost said, and an outdoor water park, if funds are available after all other (bond) projects have been met.
Frost said partnering with the Y is more viable than building a free-standing pool at the high school or on land owned by the district near the administration office, which was not accessible by a highway.
Bell said while the school has the capital, the YMCA has the operational expertise.
Were pretty good at it, he said, saying there are five YMCA pools in York and Chester counties. Pools are very hard to operate and you need dues to help pay for the bills.
Clover High School swim coach Joan Epping said having a pool to use year-round right in our back yard would be great for the program. The swim program currently uses the outdoor pool at River Hills Country Club for competition.
The name of the game is having year-round swimmers without which you cant be competitive, she said.
She is thankful for the precedent set in Rock Hill; it can help save lives at the lake.
I think its crucial these third-graders learn to swim, she said. Its also crucial to the fitness of the area, kids and adult, and the beauty of everyone learning to swim.
Bell also said its about teaching healthy lifestyles.
Teaching kids to swim is the focus, but if they learn to swim theyll be more active, he said. Swimming is forever.
The Rock Hill facility includes membership from throughout York County. The cost for the public to use the Lake Wylie center would likely follow general membership costs, Bell said.
We never turn anyone down on membership, he said, explaining there are scholarships and other ways to meet membership fees. Its primarily to serve kids, but there will be senior adults using the pool. They find they can do things in the pool they couldnt do on land.
Bell said the YMCA pools are in constant use and offer a range of activities from mother-tot and competitive programs, senior adult exercise and therapeutic sessions in water, as well as competitive adult swimming and triathlon training, and more.
It would just be a dream come true for our community, said Linda McCallum, YMCA branch director for Lake Wylie and Clover. Living in a community surrounded by water and not having a place to teach children to swim, we have a critical need.
She said the YMCA bus about 450 summer day campers to the Rock Hill and Fort Mill facility for swimming and lessons.
Keeping them close to home gives them more swim time, and increases the quality of the experience and safety, as well, McCallum said.
The 656 children in the after school programs held at the districts six elementary schools could combine at this facility, she said.
She also said there are many programs the YMCA could continue at the Lake Wylie location in the Lakeside West shopping center, which opened almost two years ago.
Typically, when we open, we never close another one, she said.
Bell said the new facility could serve a lot of different people in a lot of ways.
The Y becomes the community center and attracts all kinds of people, he said. Its flattering to know were going to be able to pull the community together.
Frost said thanks to the YMCA maintenance, not having to pay for that with tax dollars obviously is a cost-savings to the district.
Homeowners shouldnt expect higher property taxes if the bond passes, school officials say, because bonds sold in 2006 will be expiring.
While weve lowered our tax burden on the community other counties have increased, Frost said. The school portion of the tax will go down.
Officials say in 2007 homeowners paid $136 per $100,000 value and that will go down to $96 per $100,000 in 2014.
The millage rate impact for the bond would increase millage from 24 to 35 mils, Frost said.
The impact would cost an estimated $6 on a $10,000 vehicle property tax, he said.
Effectively, if the bond is unsuccessful, the millage rate would remain relatively the same with minimal savings, Frost said.
The districts construction project manager is Cumming Corp. The aquatic center is designed by architect LS3P.
Bonds are only for capital growth, not teachers salaries and staff, which would come from the districts general operations budget.
Catherine Muccigrosso • 803-831-8166