During its Dec. 9 regular meeting, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted to approve operative documents to complete the partnership with Apex Parks and Recreation District and the City of Arvada to replace the aging Meyers Pool.
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Before the vote was taken, new Board President Stephanie Schooley, recapped work that had been done regarding the agreement, saying on Nov. 4, the previous Board (prior to newly elected members being seated) approved the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the City of Arvada, Apex and Jeffco Public Schools (JPS), regarding the Northwest Aquatics Complex project, and the loan terms to support the IGA and finance construction. She said on Oct. 20, the Board directed JPS staff to finalize the IGA with bids for the project’s financing and report on the loan for the project.
“The partnership agreement provides for Jeffco Public Schools and the City of Arvada to jointly finance construction of the aquatics complex with Apex providing ongoing management and operations at the site,” Schooley said. “The George J. Meyers Swimming Center, the Meyers pool owned by the City of Arvada and operated by the Apex Park and Recreation District, is almost 50-years-old and in need of replacement. A plan has been developed to keep the pool in operation until a new pool opens. The estimated end of the pool’s useful life is 2023.”
Steve Bell, Chief Operating Officer, Jeffco Schools, said the vote would be the culmination of what had been discussed in November, following the award of the loan package to Glacier Bank, as the single lender on the transaction, based on the terms and conditions of their bid.
“We’ve been talking about this for quite some time,” Bell said. “We think we have a very value-added asset for our community on a very unique borrowing structure. We have two parties — with the school district and the City (of Arvada) that are partnering on the financing, with a third partner, Apex Parks and Rec. District, which will provide for the operation and maintenance of the facility.”
Bell said an Arvada Council member, at the time the City passed their resolution, made a comment that he thought (the partnership) was decades ahead of the rest of the country with this type of (ownership) structure.
New board member Paula Reed read the resolution as written to the Board:
“Resolution of the Jefferson County School District No. R1, Jefferson and Broomfield Counties, Colorado, approving a lease purchase financing to provide funds for the construction of a replacement aquatics center on the site of the Meyers Pool, authorizing and approving the lease purchase agreement and other documentation in connection with the cooperative financing with the City of Arvada and providing other details, perimeters and authorization in connection with lease purchase financing,” the resolution said.
Before the vote, while discussion of the matter was still taking place, board member Susan Miller asked Bell to clarify details of the deal including duration of the partnership and percentage of financing the District would be responsible for. He said the term of the deal would be 20 years and Jeffco Schools would be an equity owner, which among other things, meant Jeffco students would not pay fees to the facility for as long as the agreement continued.
“Now, at the end of the 20-year term, when the financing is paid, it is possible that maybe we’d make a decision to do something different, but that’s not in the document as it exists,” Bell said, stressing that after 20 years, the District would still own 50% of the Complex.
After the three newest board members, Mary Parker, Danielle Varda and Paula Reed, each commented with enthusiasm about the project, Miller gave an impassioned plea to reconsider committing $22 million to the project, saying the District had greater needs that would be more impactful to students, referencing schools like Molholm and Vivian Elementary, Title 1 schools that have many long-standing needs.
“We are setting a precedent,” Miller said. “I want it to be very clear that when we do this, we are setting a precedent that Foothills and Wheat Ridge and Golden and Evergreen and Carmody could come and say ‘hey! — we want to do this as well. And we want the same type of structure that you’re building for Arvada for those five high schools. We want that for our community.’”
Miller acknowledged that the decision to fund the pool had already been set in motion, but said there was precedent for overturning decisions made by previous boards. Bell clarified that the District (via the previous Board) had already awarded the sale of the transaction to an institutional lender.
“This money should be going for the purpose of our competency of teaching our children and should be providing opportunities for our kiddos,” she said.
Bell said upending the transaction would likely cause issues with the City of Arvada, the lender and would jeopardize the project. He called the matter an issue of organizational integrity saying, in his opinion, the current Board should honor the commitment made by previous Board members.
For her part, Jeffco Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland said there were aquatics needs in the district’s northern corridor that would need to be dealt with regardless of the vote. The resolution passed with only Miller voting no.
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