New push to pay for roof over aquatics center

The Friends of Louisa County Aquatics have done their homework about building a roof over the pool at the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center. Now they want the supervisors to take the plunge and help fund their project.

The roof, which the nonprofit Friends say can be built for $800,000, would result in more than doubling the number of visits to the pool annually, according to Laurie Dalton, a member of the group’s board. 

“It would be the only year-round covered pool in Louisa,” she said. 

The Friends began meeting two years ago to discuss the need for a covered pool. They became more public in 2018, attending county comprehensive plan meetings to advocate for their cause. Now the group has obtained nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service, allowing people to make tax-deductible donations.

Dalton credited the Louisa County Parks, Recreation and Tourism department with developing the estimate of an increase from 10,000 to 22,000 visits. Department officials have told the group that the revenue from year-round swimming is projected to offset much of the increased maintenance and staffing expenses.

“They have what they feel are fair estimates of the cost, and they believe they’re capable of handling it,” she said. 

Dalton and other advocates want the roof to cover the Junior Olympic-sized pool, the largest of the three pools at the aquatics center. The pools, which were installed in 2008, are currently used only during the summer months. The original plans for the aquatics center called for a roof.

The group has a copy of those plans. The only architectural detail left unanswered in the plans is whether the roof should be a removable bubble or permanent. After much research, the Friends determined that while a bubble roof would be $200,000 cheaper, it would have to be replaced after 15 years of use. Officials at pools in Goochland and Powhatan counties, which have bubble roofs, advised the Louisa group of the perils of going that route.

Besides collecting 1,100 signatures from supportive residents, the Friends have lobbied local businesses to support a roof for the aquatics center. 

Dalton said a year-round pool could be beneficial to citizens of all ages. She envisions students from the public schools coming to the pool during school hours for swim lessons and senior citizens staying fit through water exercise.

“It’s a place for the community to get together,” she said.

The Friends have begun lobbying the supervisors to put some of the $800,000 needed to pay for the pool roof in the next year of the county’s five-year capital improvement program, which is fiscal year 2021. The money is already in the plan, but the supervisors often move capital projects to future years as they work to balance the budget and address competing needs.

At the same time, the Friends are not expecting the county to foot the whole bill. This summer, having obtained nonprofit status, they began raising money in the community. The group also intends to ask foundations for grant support. 

The Friends have a GoFundMe page and are circulating a “declaration of support” form on which citizens can make a donation and ask the supervisors for support.

The supervisors will begin budget discussions in January 2020.