The four-year-old drive to revive the now-dry Phillips Community Center swimming pool and add a teaching pool is now within $417,000 of the estimated $5.4 million cost, thanks to a Minneapolis schools contribution.

Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jayne Miller said she’ll bring a plan to the board’s July 15 meeting to close the remaining budget gap, as directed by the board on April 1.

But Miller said Wednesday night that she doesn’t expect to recommend taking out a mortgage against the park headquarters as part of her strategy to close the budget gap. The board ordered the borrowing in an April resolution. Miller said that the shrinking size of the gap, given the $1.75 million school contribution to the project, makes that less necessary.

Miller is hoping to use the headquarters building as collateral to borrow for part of the cost of improvements at two Park Board maintenance facilities in northeast and north Minneapolis. That cost is estimated at $8.8 million.

Supporters say the pool, at 2323 11th Av. S. in the Phillips community, is needed to address a disproportionate rate of drowning deaths. Federal statistics indicate that children who are black, the biggest racial group in Phillips, drown in Minnesota at a rate nearly three times that of whites. The pool and a gym were built in 1973 at Phillips Junior High, which has since been torn down. Residents fought off a 2008 proposal to fill the pool after the park district stopped operating it. Since then, the Minneapolis Swims booster group has missed fundraising deadlines, and supporters have turned to additional public sources to pay for the pool renovation.

The Minneapolis school board in June approved providing construction funding, contingent on reaching agreement with park officials on a school wish list of priorities for using the pool and other sports facilities and programs. The pool commitment was made as the district is facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

The district earlier committed $150,000 annually for five years to pay for pool operations. That and other expected income still leave an estimated $128,000 annual operating gap.

The Park Board gave preliminary approval this week to accepting the school contribution, if an agreement between the park and school boards on athletic facility priority is reached.

The school district wants scheduling priority at two park-owned ice arenas for hockey, at the Neiman Sports Complex for baseball, softball and soccer, and at Parade Athletic Fields for football, soccer and baseball. It also seeks swimming classes for students and certified lifeguards, collaborative programs at the Green Central gym and school, rehabbing Todd Park for Washburn softball, further improvements at Bossen Field Park by 2018 and better coordination between the two systems.

 

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