Chinn Center Expansion Near Center of Prince William Swimming Pool Debate
– August 15, 2013 12:04 pm
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – In 2006, voters in Prince William County approved the option of floating an $27 million bond to improve park facilities.
One of those projects was a planned $11 million expansion of the heavily used Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center in Woodbridge. One of the area’s few indoor public pools, the swim lanes are used daily from about 4:30 a.m. to about 10 o’clock at night.
Fast foward to today and the Chinn Center’s indoor swimming faclity was never expanded, and the $11 million that was approved by voters was never borrowed. The option to do so remains until 2016, officials said.
Now officals on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and School Board are in talks to build a new indoor swimming pool in the county’s upcoming 12th high school in the area of Va. 234 and Hoadly Road. If built, current plans show the $10.5 million facility would be located inside the high school, and would include a instrutuoanl pool, competition pool, and would provide a place for commutity swim lessons, life-saving training, and childrens birthday parties.
The question of whether or not to build a swimming pool inside the new high school has sparked much debate among parents with children in swim leagues who advocate for more swim lanes, and taxpayers who say public funds could be better spent in the classroom.
“We need to be careful not to be trapped in a situation where we continue to ask, ‘should we build a swimming pool, or expand the Chinn Center,” said Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe.
The Chinn Center expansion, while approved by voters, was removed from the county’s Capital Improvement Plan when the national economy took a nose dive. So did other plans to borrow money to improve ball fields, to build new trails, and purchase land to preserve open space.
The 2006 plan to borrow $23 million to build a new library in Montclair was only recently added back onto the list.
Nohe said removing the projects from the CIP and not taking the money was the right thing to do at the time because it meant the burden of higher taxes on homeowners needed to pay for the new amenities never materialized.
But the need for a new pool hasn’t gone away, but even on the School Board, not everybody is ready to dive in.
“We should be focusing on educating our kids, not pools in schools,” said Neabsco District School Board member Lisa Bell. “The folks who want the pool are year-round swimmers, but taxpayers don’t want it.”
Bell went on to question why talk of a swimming pool is now all the rage, and the project didn’t come up on an annual county needs assessment last year.
As talks with officials continue, an agreement could be struck that would allow the county school system to build a new swimming pool, and would allow the county’s Parks and Recreation Department — which currently oversees Chinn Center, two water parks, and a host community swimming pools — to manage the facility.