Tuesday, the Tracy Unified School District Board of Trustees will consider a proposal from district staff to buy the city of Tracy’s interest in Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center and take full control of the pool at West High School.
According to Bonny Carter, TUSD director of facilities and planning, the district can unilaterally end its memorandum of understanding with the city that began Feb. 6, 2007.
“The MOU basically says for 30 years,” Carter said. “Either party can terminate voluntarily.”
According to Section 13A of the MOU, “Only upon completion of Pool and City use of Pool for a period of five (5) years, District may terminate this MOU, without cause, upon one hundred eighty (180) days’ written notice to City.”
The city paid a quarter of the costs to build Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center and, according to the MOU, can recover only the costs of the community buildings and 25 percent of the final direct construction costs and design and construction management costs.
Interim City Manager Maria Hurtado said Tuesday that until June, the city had been exploring a citywide aquatics plan that included the West High pool, along with renovation of Joe Wilson Pool at Dr. Powers Park and a possible deal with Wild Rivers LLC, an Irvine company that builds water parks.
“Really, the (City) Council just wants to know one way or another, because we’re approaching this partnership with the Wild Rivers and the Joe Wilson Pool and the West High pool as a total thing,” she said. “If it’s not going to work with West High, then that’s fine; we just have to make accommodations with the Wild Rivers to have a two-acre site for a 50-meter competition pool.”
Carter told the TUSD trustees on Aug. 12 that the district could use leftover money from Measure E, a 2006 bond measure, to buy the city’s interest.
The TUSD associate superintendent of business services, Casey Goodall, said the proposal the district is offering to trustees Tuesday includes a plan to raise the fees for non-school groups to use the pool.
According to Carter, the district charges about $36 an hour to swim at West High.
“The education code prohibited us from charging back our full costs,” Goodall said. “That law changed back in January, so we are looking at changing our fee regardless of what the decision is on buying out our pool.”
Goodall said the new fee would be between $150 and $200 an hour for non-school groups.
That part of the proposal concerns Pat Windschitl, the co-founder and head coach of Ellis Aquatics, a Tracy-based swim club.
“What I’m worried about is that cost might be beyond our reach. We wouldn’t be able to use this,” he said Tuesday as both Ellis Aquatics and the West High water polo team practiced at Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center.
“None of this was possible without TUSD. We’ve had great help from administration. I mean, we love what they’ve been able to do, but we’ve always got to worry about losing it, too,” Windschitl said, adding that the club estimated it could cost $10,000 a season to rent the pool at the new rates.
The 27-year-old coach, who also coaches at West High, said that if Ellis lost the ability to practice at West High, all local high school programs would suffer.
“We’ve been ecstatic with how the high schools have been doing, how the kids have been feeding into the high schools,” Windschitl said. “They are going to look much, much, much stronger over the next two years. We’ve just had our first wave of new high school kids. Those teams are going to explode.”
The coach pointed to several freshmen as signs that having a robust youth program helps the high school programs.
“Madesyn Ronquillo, she’ll be entering (Tracy) high school, and she’ll be looking at a top-three placing at sections if you look at her times right now as an eighth-grader going in,” he said, also citing swimmer Keiana Fountaine, a freshman at Kimball High. “She’s been swimming with us since she was 9, and she was a sectional qualifier, California and Nevada champions qualifier. She’s looking at times that might win sections for Kimball. Tracy’s never seen things like that before.”
“Tracy’s being represented at a national stage at this point,” Windschitl added. “Yeah, it’s little kids, but the little kids get older. That’s the goal. We are starting to develop into a powerhouse, and that only feeds the high school programs. Kimball won the VOL this year.”
Goodall said undercutting the high school teams was a secondary concern.
“I worry about that, but the big thing I worry about is that there are costs the school incurs for operating the pool, and I think we want to make sure and we want to cover the costs of operating it. That’s an overriding concern.”
Goodall — who said some coaches and administrators had complained about sharing the Pinkie Phillips pool — said that West High students would not have the access that students at other high schools enjoy if the district doesn’t take full control of the pool and charge higher fees.
The equation is equally simple for Windschitl:
“Every one of the swim coaches for the high school programs also coaches the club teams. If we can’t use it, the programs can’t exist. If we can’t afford it, the programs can’t exist.”
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at email@example.com or 830-4231.