A New Cuyama pool built near a sinkhole soon will be reconstructed, with completion scheduled for late 2016 or early 2017.
Residents from the small community of mostly low-income families living in eastern Santa Barbara County have waited more than two years to hear the pool — described as a main Cuyama Valley community meeting place — would be rebuilt, and the frustration showed Tuesday during the county Board of Supervisors meeting.
The board unanimously voted to authorize county General Services to advertise for construction bids for the Joseph Centeno Cuyama Pool and Aquatics Complex, a rebuild that could cost about $2 million.
The original $2.4 million project was completed in 2009 but was closed indefinitely in October 2012 after the complex experienced a sinking event, causing damage to a 25-meter pool, a wading pool, deck areas and a small building housing restrooms, outdoor showers and pool mechanical rooms.
Since then, county General Services completed an investigation into the pool failure, which in 2013 confirmed the presence of hydro-collapsible soils at the site.
Cuyama Valley residents were offered a county-funded bus shuttle service to a pool in nearby Taft in the meantime.
The county is still wrangling with its insurance company to regain losses, thus far receiving $1.3 million to reimburse for expenditures already incurred, projected redesign costs and a partial payment towards construction.
General Services has spent approximately $310,000 of those funds on services associated with the investigation, project management, soil reports and design.
Board approval is contingent on insurance OK of the final repair plan and commitment to fund the total project budget.
The county could be at risk if supervisors don’t move the rebuild forward. Since the original pool project was funded with $400,000 from Community Development Block Grants, which can’t be used on other types of projects, the county would be in danger of having to repay that money. The rest of the first pool was paid from the general fund.
Lynn Carlisle, executive director of the Cuyama Valley Family Resource Center, brought 88 letters and drawings from local students, encouraging officials to rebuild the pool.
“They are far more eloquent than I could ever be,” she said. “I know that Cuyama is far away … but it clearly is a big topic for these kids. The pool was a huge gift to the community and our kids.”
If the pool had been built anywhere else in the county, officials wouldn’t be as reluctant or slow to fund construction, Cuyama resident John Mackenzie said.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he took issue with the perception that officials have sat on this project, when the county has been waiting to complete the investigation into why the pool failed and is still working with the insurance company.
The letters from school children and an email from a Cuyama teacher were upsetting, Lavagnino said, since much of them alluded to the county ignoring New Cuyama.
“The commitment on the board is that we are building the pool,” he said.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal sympathized with Cuyama residents, who live within his district, saying, “the community is frustrated.”
General Services expects to return to supervisors with a recommendation and request to award a contract this summer.
— Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.