The Worthington Pools’ outdoor pool and natatorium at 400 W. Dublin-Granville Road need a lot of work -- to the tune of $24 million.
That’s according to a memorandum sent to the city by Bricker & Eckler, a public-finance law firm that serves as bond counsel to both the city of Worthington and Worthington Schools.
Now the city and school district are working with Swiminc, which operates the facility, to figure out the best way to go about getting the work done.
A joint meeting between city and school district officials is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at the Worthington Education Center, 200 E. Wilson Bridge Road, to weigh options.
Worthington Schools owns the natatorium and the land, according to Vicki Gnezda, spokesperson for the school district.
One option that will be considered Oct. 14 involves grants or loans to Swiminc. Such an option could result in the city or district going to voters with a tax issue, according to Bricker & Eckler’s memorandum.
With this option, the city could provide capital to Swiminc in the form of grants or loans to perform necessary repairs. This option effectively would maintain the status quo, with Swiminc remaining the lessor of the Worthington Pools and the city providing a one-time capital influx to Swiminc to allow it to perform needed repairs, according to the memorandum.
Because Swiminc is a private nonprofit organization, any contract to repair the facility would not be subject to the procurement requirements of public entities.
State law allows for the city to provide grants to nonprofits that are “engaged in promoting safety,” according to the memorandum.
State law allows the school district to repair and improve a wide range of facilities, including athletics facilities, according to the memorandum. Because Worthington Pools is on land owned by the school district and because the district uses the facilities for its athletics programs, the district may use its funds for the necessary improvements. However, state law doesn’t allow for the district to provide grants or loans. Rather, the district would have to make any such improvements itself, according to the memorandum.
Another option involves creating a joint recreation district, through which the city and school district could create a new and separate public entity to operate and maintain the facilities.
As with the first option, this new entity could seek funding through a levy, according to the memorandum. Moreover, the City Council and school board each would have to approve legislation and designate a board of trustees for oversight.
“That district would have the authority to issue bonds, have board of trustees to help fund things like the pools and request a levy,” City Manager Matt Greeson said.
He said the concept would be geographically the size of the school district and would issue a small property-tax levy that would help fund a new natatorium and renovations to the outdoor pool.
He said there is no definite timeline, but he’s hoping to keep the conversation going between the entities.
“We’re going to start having conversations about the investment of the pools,” he said.
A third option is a joint venture. Instead of establishing a new political subdivision, this option involves creating a contractual relationship between the parties for joint ownership and control of the facilities. As such, both would share the responsibility of repairing, improving, maintaining and operating the facilities, according to the memorandum.
As with the other two options, a joint venture could result in a tax levy.
Greeson said Swiminc was incorporated in 1953 for the purposes of running the Worthington Pools. He said the outdoor pool was built in the 1950s and the natatorium was constructed in the 1970s. He said Swiminc has an agreement with the district for the management and operation of the pools and contract for the sports teams’ use of the facility.
According to the Worthington Pools website, Swiminc is run by a board of community members.
Greeson said other than the loan the city had made to Swiminc in the 1990s, the city has remained largely uninvolved with the pools. Swiminc charges Worthington Schools $100,000 a year for use by the district’s swimming and water-polo teams, and the organization was paying back a $600,000 loan from the city in 1996 until the remaining $105,000 was forgiven in 2016.
He said Swiminc has received a $1 million grant from the state from a previous capital bill that’s expected to be used in 2020.
“That money needs to be spent in a way that’s beneficial to the long-term plan,” he said.
Greeson said they have the ability under state law to create joint recreation district with the school.
Swiminc officials couldn’t be reached for comment.