Worthington City Council will be asked whether it supports the basic concept of a joint recreation district with Worthington Schools.

The request, raised at the Jan. 27 school board meeting, was the result of ongoing discussion among the city, school district and Swiminc Inc. regarding the three outdoor pools and the indoor-pool natatorium at the Worthington Pools facility on the grounds of Thomas Worthington High School.

Swiminc, a private nonprofit organization created in 1954, operates Worthington Pools, but it has received funding from both the city and school district in the past. Swiminc charges Worthington Schools $125,000 a year for use by the district's swimming, diving and water-polo teams, according to the district, and the organization was paying back a $600,000 loan from the city in 1996 until the remaining $105,000 was forgiven in 2016.

Worthington Schools built the natatorium and owns the land for the facility, according to documentation from the district.

A JRD previously was floated as an option to help fund a potential renovation project.

Some board members expressed apprehension about the idea and whether the city would take the lead in forming the JRD. Pursuant to state law, a JRD board has the authority to place a tax issue on the ballot.

"If the legislative authority of a municipal corporation determines that the power to equip, operate and maintain parks, playgrounds, playfields, gymnasiums, public baths, swimming pools or recreation centers shall be exercised by a recreation board, it may establish such a board, which shall possess all the powers and be subject to all the responsibilities of the respective local authorities under sections 755.12 to 755.18 of the Revised Code," according to section 755.14 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Board member Charlie Wilson said he was concerned about "ballot fatigue" – the school district leading a campaign to support the creation of the JRD and going back to voters each time it needed money – while the district also must turn to residents for its financial needs.

Jennifer Best agreed with Wilson.

"I'm thinking it's something the city (should) take hold of," Best said.

The school board took no action.

Following two meetings in late 2019, a JRD did not appear to have a groundswell of community support, said Superintendent Trent Bowers.

Bowers has recommended the district use its capital budget to pay for maintenance of the natatorium, even if a "major event" happens with the indoor swimming pool over the next 10 years. The cost to fix it then could be anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million, he said.

"There's no way to say when it will fail," he said.

The city agreeing to financially support the other pools was another option, Bowers said, although their futures have not been decided.

Bonnie Michael, president of Worthington City Council, said one of the city's staff members did extensive research on JRDs, something council and city staff members would discuss in the near future.

"This is a definite topic that's at the forefront of our considerations," Michael said. "Council still has to have a more in-depth discussion on it."