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January 12, 2012

County support for Crozet pool sparks renewed interest by swimmers at Fairview

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, January 12, 2012

An effort to upgrade the pool at Claudius Crozet Park to a year-round facility took a major step forward Wednesday after the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted to reallocate $200,000 in capital funding towards improvements at the park.

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Supporters of the Claudius Crozet Park wore green to support their cause 

The investment, which will allow Crozet Park to allocate other funds it has raised towards a pool enclosure, had supervisors asking whether a similar proposal from the Fairview Swim and Tennis Club should also get support.

“The number one priority of Crozet Park has been an aquatics and recreation center, and they have been fundraising towards this effort since 2004,” said Bob Crickenberger, the county’s director of parks and recreation.

Claudius Crozet Park is owned by a nonprofit organization. The county has spent nearly $1 million on capital improvements at the park since 1997 and is responsible for routine maintenance.

Crozet Park’s directors unsuccessfully approached the county in 2008 seeking funding for an inflatable pool enclosure.

“We took away from the staff recommendation, when we were turned down, to form a partnership with the [Piedmont Family] YMCA and to come back to the board and ask for some help down the road,” said Heidi Sonen, a member of the Claudius Crozet Park’s board of directors.

Park directors came up with a second proposal to request that $200,000 originally designated for tennis courts, trails and basketball courts be transferred instead towards renovations of the park’s recreation center building. The balance of about $400,000 for capital improvements
has been raised from the community.

The fund transfer was supported by members of the Star Swimming organization, a group that supports aquatic athletics at the private Fairview Swim Club off of Rio Road.

In 2008, supervisors denied that group’s request for a $500,000 dome for Fairview’s outdoor pool.

“I’m encouraged to see the board vote to build an enclosure like the one we would like to have at Fairview,” said John McHugh of Star Swimming. “However to fully support the needs of the county, this board needs to reconsider the funding of Star Swimming’s proposal.”

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, who met with county staff and park directors to negotiate the Crozet Park deal, pointed out to McHugh that county money would upgrade support buildings to serve the pool, and not go towards the dome itself.

“Money for the pool was raised separately,” Mallek said.

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said the Crozet Park proposal differed from Star Swimming’s because the county has a long-standing relationship with the Crozet facility, and because the money had already been allocated to the park.

“This appears to me to be an opportunity to multiply the effect of that money by more than three times,” Rooker said.

In his staff presentation, Crickenberger said the proposal had not been vetted by a technical review committee that examines all capital projects.

That, in conjunction with a memorandum of understanding that had been revised shortly before the meeting, prompted Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd to question why the item was before the board.

“This has sort of skipped every procedure that we would normally hold people too,” Boyd said. “It looks like the staff and the chair have been negotiating a contract with Crozet Park without the direction of this entire board, and that’s what bothers me.”

Mallek defended her involvement.

“My whole goal has been to try to find something that was agreeable,” Mallek said.

Boyd eventually agreed to support the project.

“I’m doing so predicated on the fact that I’m going to challenge my colleagues to do this in other areas of this county,” Boyd said.

Sonen said the Crozet Park example can serve as a model for other groups seeking to increase the availability of year-round swimming lanes.

“We took a different approach than [Star Swimming] did because we thought we should just raise the money for the dome,” Sonen said.

Supervisors’ approval was contingent on the county and the park signing a memorandum of understanding that governs how the center will be operated and how trails and athletic courts will be funded instead.

Operating costs at the pool will be paid for in part through fees that will be collected by the Piedmont Family YMCA.

Albemarle previously agreed to contribute $1.25 million towards the new YMCA aquatics facility in Charlottesville. However, that project is on hold pending the Virginia Supreme Court’s consideration of a lawsuit by other for-profit fitness facilities challenging the city action that would allow the long-term lease of space in McIntire Park.

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