YUCCA VALLEY — A panel of citizens chosen by the Town Council presented its final recommendations on the place and design of a new aquatics center Tuesday night.
The group recommended building the pool and recreation center east of the soccer fields at Brehm sports park on Little League Drive.
The proposed project includes an indoor recreational pool, a 25-yard outdoor lap pool, a gymnasium, a rehab room and a multipurpose room.
Mayor Jeff Drozd reminded the audience that it is still early in the process.
“We’re not making any decisions tonight,” Drozd said. “The citizens advisory group has done an incredible job.”
The project would cost $22-$24 million, which is much more than the $15 million available from a state grant earmarked for construction.
The total grant was for $22 million, but according to staff reports, $2 million went back to the state for administrative costs and $5 million is earmarked for “soft costs” like design fees.
Councilman Merl Abel said building the center at Brehm park will benefit both the town of Yucca Valley and the nonprofit Boys & Girls Club, which is across the street.
“It could only help our Boys & Girls Club,” Abel said. “We have kids there already.”
But several council members said they would prefer the new aquatics center be built in other locations, including near Essig Park in the Sky Harbor area or near Sunnyslope Drive and Sage Avenue north of the community center.
The advisory group’s proposal listed project features that could be cut or downsized, but advocates asked the council to seek out partnerships and additional grants to make up the shortfall of money.
Town Manager Curtis Yakimow said he continues to keep an eye on the bottom line. He pondered if the new aquatics program will be able to keep itself afloat financially.
“Can we sustain the project?” Yakimow asked on Tuesday.
The Brehm park location is the least expensive to develop, Huntington said. Construction is set to begin in October 2020.
“It was the closest to being construction ready,” Huntington said of Brehm park.
Advisory panel members said they mainly chose Brehm park because it is near the town center and is ready to develop. The other locations would require state environmental reviews.
Councilman Jim Schooler, who is on an ad hoc committee for the project, attended meetings of the advisory panel.
“This is an extremely exciting project,” Schooler said. “This is huge and it is going to be iconic.”
Schooler did remark that the scope of costs is astonishing.
“It is amazing what $22 million doesn’t buy you these days,” Schooler said. “It doesn’t stretch very far.”
Schooler also said traffic congestion and a gas pipeline at the Brehm park location are concerns.
Councilman Robert Lombardo also voiced misgivings about the location.
“The site location is a little bit of a problem for me too,” Lombardo said. “It will be congested.”
Sue Tsuda, vice chairwoman of the advisory panel, agreed traffic could be a problem, and even dangerous to children.
“I too wanted to have the pool built at Sunnyslope and Sage,” she said.
“We took the location very seriously,” said Clint Stoker, a member of the advisory panel who also serves on the town’s planning commission.
The advisors met nine times in the past five months. The town gathered public input at two community workshops in June and July. More than 100 people attended the July workshop.
It would be costly to run pool year-round
Running a year-round swimming program in a new facility could cost as much as $750,000 to $1 million, according to previous staff reports.
The eight-week swimming program that currently runs every summer costs the town $55,000 to $65,000. The fees people pay to use the pool cover a little more than half of the costs to run the program, according to town staff.
An average of 153 people visited the pool every day this summer, town officials said, with a total of 6,121 visits.