Cuesta College did the right thing by making pool repairs

A bird's-eye view of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.
A bird's-eye view of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

It was a bit like having an oven go kaput on Thanksgiving morning: The vinyl lining at Cuesta College’s small training pool failed just as summer swim season was starting.

The pool — which was shut down for a month — reopened Monday following completion of emergency repairs, but the temporary closure caused cancellation of dozens of adult aqua fitness classes and swimming lessons for babies, toddlers and young children.

Adult classes have resumed, and the college is trying to line up instructors and lifeguards for the children’s lessons, but the cancellations no doubt put a crimp in the summer plans of many families.

It also demonstrated what voters recognized last fall when they approved Cuesta College’s $275 million bond measure: Many facilities at the college are in desperate need of repair or replacement.

The college’s aqua center — which includes both the small training pool and the large, 50-meter pool in which competitions are held — is among the aging facilities that need help.

Built in 1978, the swimming pools had been at the top of the list of facilities due for a major upgrade in the next couple of years. But as it turned out, it would have been too expensive to try to rebuild the existing pools to modern standards.

Instead, the college plans to take the old pools out and install totally new ones.

That project is scheduled for the second phase of improvements, in around four years.

For now, Cuesta is investing in new liners and other repairs to keep the old pools in decent shape until the new ones are built. Deferred maintenance funds, rather than bond money, are being used.

The small pool already has been fixed; the larger pool will be repaired in the winter. The total for the two projects will be around $200,000.

That’s a lot of money to spend on swimming pools that will be torn out and replaced in less than five years. However, given the amount of use the pools get, it would have been too big a blow to the swimming community to close the pools until new ones are built. Nor could the pools have been allowed to limp along.

Not only is safety a concern, but the college also has been losing water because of pool leaks; as many as 13,000 gallons per day are lost to leaks, evaporation and maintenance — a major concern, given the drought.

While it’s unfortunate the college has to sink substantial money into repairing pools that will be replaced, public swimming pools are some of the most important recreational facilities communities can offer.

They provide opportunities for team sports and exercise, and they are critical for teaching youngsters the skills they need to be water safe.

Leaving the community high and dry — literally — was never an option. Cuesta College made the right move in keeping its swimming pools open and accessible.