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9:42 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Crowd urges college to...<BR>Keep the pool

After hearing from architects and other business professionals about the feasibility of pool rehabilitation, Yavapai College will appoint a special advisory committee.

The college will then conduct a follow-up public forum Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Performance Hall to deal specifically with building options. That means the college either will renovate the current pool or build a new one.

"There are some changes in the regulatory environment which make the rehabilitation of the current pool perhaps a little more challenging than we first thought," Dailey said. "But we really need to get the rest of the information."

Dailey told forum participants Monday that Yavapai College's master plan for Prescott campus improvements allocated $6 million for Building 2's renovation — not solely for construction of a pool, as some have mistakenly believed.

The board hasn't made any direct public guarantee that it won't shut down the pool, even though the college's voter-approved bond in 2000 allotted money for a 9,000-square-foot addition to Building 2 that would house a new community pool.

"Our role is to listen," said Ed Harris, district board chair. "We've got to get all the facts, we've got to clearly define the problem, and look at all kinds of options. There's a whole batch of options (and) we are a long ways away from decision time."

Longtime Prescott residents, retired persons, members of the current Prescott High School swim team, and numerous college-educated Prescott professionals spoke openly and candidly at the forum.

The consensus was that under no circumstances should Yavapai College close the pool. Over the past 30 years, the facility has accommodated swimmers of all ages and has either benefited their athletic endeavors or short-term and long-term health.

Local swimmers want the public to know that the pool has been vital to the numerous children who have taken swimming lessons there; its lifeguard and aquatics programs have benefited both young adults and senior citizens; and it has offered a sanctuary for injured people needing to rehabilitate and/or soothe their aching bodies.

Terry Vallely, a Prescott native, said he swam in the Yavapai College pool as a child, and it was responsible for helping him learn how to swim.

"The lifeguard program is the best around here," Vallely said, "and lives are saved due to the lifeguard class. I'd hate to lose this pool."

Several residents, including 63-year-old Gaile Harden, mentioned how the pool has helped her lessen the pain of nagging ailments. Lesley Schuler, an eight-year swimmer at the facility who has battled rheumatoid arthritis daily for the past 15 years, said she needs the pool for her aching joints.

Others told of how college classes, such as those that teach kayaking and canoeing, have benefited water sports enthusiasts.

Still others spoke of the local Prescott YMCA pool and how it can't adequately accommodate children and teens who want to become competitive swimmers. If the college pool closed, they claim the YMCA would be too crowded, and it would leave out high school swimmers competing for college scholarships.

Dr. Daniel Burchfield, a local orthopedic surgeon who spoke at the forum, said he agrees that the closure would create a void.

"The YMCA can't meet the needs (of the swimming community)," Burchfield said. "This is an important outreach for the college. The college athletes use the pool for rehab. Really it's an issue of, do they (board members) want to save the pool or not? My passion is to see the pool saved."

One contingent represented at the forum was the younger generation of swimmers. Members of the Prescott High School swim team told Dailey and the board that the YC pool sparked their initial interest in swimming. They said it was also integral to some of their former teammates who are now college swimmers.

Prescott High senior swimmer Amy Roden read from a prepared statement, saying that the pool offered her "one of the most important experiences in my life," and taught her how to set goals and persevere through failure.

A handful of forum participants then credited the college's excellent maintenance of the current pool and believe it's possible to repair and retain it.

Local swimmers, young and old, say they appreciate its accessibility, including the physically and mentally handicapped, who have no other place to swim in town.

The Yavapai College swim program enrolled an estimated 1,200 people this year, and it shows few signs of a decrease in popularity. About a half-hour before the forum concluded, one woman raised a petition to keep the pool, a petition that she said had 1,371 qualified voters' signatures on it.