LOS LUNAS — After nearly four decades of providing local families with recreational fun and summer jobs for teenagers, the Los Lunas Schools pool is permanently closed.

School officials told the Los Lunas Village Council the news at its Jan. 10 council meeting.

“Unfortunately, we’ll be closing the pool and scheduling it for demolition,” said Frank Otero, Los Lunas Board of Education president.

The youth of the village of Los Lunas won’t have a swimming pool starting this summer. The Los Lunas Schools decided to close and demolish the 38-year-old facility due to high repair and operating costs.
News-Bulletin file photo

Built in 1983, the facility is nearing 40 years old. Each year, for several years, the school district has been having to make repairs. Otero said they have worked hard to keep the swimming pool operational.

“The board — we’ve been agonizing for a number of years now about the deterioration and the expenses,” the BOE president said.

On a recent visit to the site, Otero walked down inside the pool and saw a lot of cracking in the concrete and the marbleized plaster finish.

“When you’d walk on the pool bottom, it would kind of make a noise, like you’re walking in a gravel pit, so it’s in pretty bad shape,” he said.

Otero said he learned about pool maintenance and repair from his days working for the Los Lunas Hospital and Training School and the state Department of Health.

“If we put a liner in, it’s like putting a liner in a gravel pit because the concrete and mortar is already busted up,” he said.

In a presentation given to the school board on Jan. 8, Claire Cieremans, the district’s chief financial officer, showed that start-up costs to operate the pool are about $38,000 when no major repairs are needed, plus about $64,500 in salaries. Revenues from the pool average $62,000.

A new liner replacement was estimated to cost between $350,000 to $450,000.

“I think we’re looking at more like $800,000, maybe close to $1 million by the time it’s all said and done,” Otero said.

The pool hasn’t been used for school swim team practice or physical education classes in 20 years. The district has a contract with Belen Consolidated Schools to use the Belen High School Natatorium.

The Los Lunas facility is used for community recreation programs, swimming lessons, aqua aerobics, lap swimming and pool parties.

Since 2012, the village of Los Lunas has been providing $35,000 annually to help with pool expenses.

The school maintenance department has been able to nurse the pool along over these years, but the cracked concrete is another matter. Broken cement edges could puncture the liner, and that would allow water seepage, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and water borne illnesses, Otero said.

“It is an issue,” he said. “There’s been a lot of municipal pools where they’ve had outbreaks of severe water borne diseases.”

The school board voted unanimously to close the pool at last week’s meeting.

“It was identified in our recent five-year master plan — we don’t see a funding source to replace the pool,” Otero said.

The village is in the process of conducting a quality-of-life survey to learn what the priorities of the community are, said Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego.

“I appreciate you letting us know,” Griego said to Cieremans last week. “It is something we are evaluating but it’s going to be a long-term process. It’s not going to happen this year and it’s probably not going to happen next year or the year after.

“We understand your position but also it’s something we both need to evaluate as to participation and cost of something like this,” the mayor continued.

“I’m kind of a little taken back. I mean that’s part of all of our childhoods,” said Councilor Gino Romero. “That is a little tough but I can certainly respect the decision that was made. It sounds like there was a lot of thought put into it and we appreciate that.”

After 35 years, the pool served its time, said Councilor Chris Ortiz.

“I agree with the mayor. I think the pool is something that the (village) still needs, but at the same time it is, you say yourself, it is a money pit; it takes a lot to operate,” Ortiz said. “Eventually, I think that it is something the (village) needs but it’s going to be a long process to get it.

“I think we’ve put enough Band Aids on it where it’s hard to keep it going, so I understand your decision as well — you don’t want anything worse to happen, Ortiz continued.”

Councilor Phillip Jaramillo said he understands the school district must put education before pool expenses.

“I truly understand it’s education before those kinds of things,” Jaramillo said.

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Deborah Fox