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Applegate sees path for $4–5M renovation of Midwest School pool; Jensen hesitant on prospects

The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees held a meeting on Monday and some discussion of Midwest School's pool came up. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Midwest residents, students and school staff have been calling on the Natrona County School District to do something to fix or replace Midwest School’s pool, and at least one trustee thinks there is a way to make the project happen.

Trustee Dave Applegate said that the Board Infrastructure Planning Committee met with some Midwest community members on Friday and also heard from the district’s lead engineer that a renovation of the pool and the building that houses it could be completed at a cost of $4–5 million.

While the school district itself may not be in a position to fund the remodel on its own, Applegate said that if the district could lean on $3 million out of its School Facilities and Equipment Reserve, $1 million from the Natrona County Recreation Joint Powers Board (which is funded by property taxes) and $1 million from the state, the project could happen.

If community members interested in finding a solution for issues at the pool could help come up with some funding for the project in the form of donations or grants, Applegate said that would demonstrate buy-in for the project.

While he said he’d like to see something happen to address issues at the pool, which closed this spring, Applegate noted that his time on the school board is coming to a close as he is not running for another term.

Applegate said he has shown support in the past for the Midwest pool project, pointing to his support for a bond issue put before voters in 2014 seeking funding for a range of projects, including a new swimming pool for Natrona County High School and renovations to Kelly Walsh High School’s and Midwest School’s pools.

While voters rejected that bond issue, Applegate said Monday that the vote was close. He interpreted the results of the vote as an opposition to more taxes but not necessarily an opposition to the pool projects themselves.

After voters rejected the bond issue, the school district started saving some money each year in its School Facilities and Equipment Reserve. Such savings were used for the recent NCHS pool project and some of that money will support the new tennis court complex project, Applegate said.

While the School Facilities and Equipment Reserve has about $40 million in it, Applegate cautioned that this money is needed to help deal with issues at facilities across the district over the longer term.

Despite the caveats, Applegate said he wants to champion the Midwest pool project during his remaining months on the board.

“Let’s get it done,” he said.

Trustee Clark Jensen expressed some doubt as to whether the school district has the resources needed to repair or replace Midwest School’s pool. He noted that general school dollars the district gets from the state cannot be used for the project and that it took the school district eight years to save enough money to make the NCHS pool project happen.

Jensen encouraged Midwest community members to look for money outside of the district for the pool project.

“Probably NCSD doesn’t have the capacity to build the pool like it needs to be built in a timely manner,” Jensen said.