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Major leak found in Abby’s pool

By Ross Pattermann

It could be some time before students in the Abbotsford School District can take another swimming lesson.

The Abbotfsord school board learned Monday that a leak was recently discovered in the pool that will require hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix.

Mason Rachu, the district’s maintenance supervisor, said he noticed the problem due to an increase in the district’s water bill, which went up $2,000 compared to last month’s water bill. The district’s water usage jumped from 160,000 to 216,00 gallons in that time.

“We found out we have a pretty big leak, and I cannot run the pool right now because of the leak,” Rachu said.

Rachu said the leak is underneath the pool’s skimmer, and he’s worried the district will have to replace a lot of piping in order to correct the problem.

“To fix that we’re going to have to take it apart,” he said. “What worries me is we’re going to have replace a lot of piping. Ours is buried and cemented into the ground.”

Rachu said the problem is a very recent one, and based on a very rough estimate, the district will need to spend anywhere from $500,000 to a million dollars to repair the pool. The pool is currently locked and inaccessible to student and the public, and Rachu is having it aerated.

Superintendent Sherry Baker said aerating the pool is a short-term fix.

“So, in the big picture, it looks like we’re going to have to empty the pool no matter what,” she said.

The pool leak comes at the worst time, Baker said, with the district looking to move forward with plans for a storm shelter/multi-purpose room. A FEMA grant gives the district 80 percent of the funds needed for construction purposes, just over $2.1 million, but Abbotsford must provide roughly $1 million for the rest of the structure’s construction and expenses like desks, chairs, carpet, tiles and paint for the interior of the shelter.

“The biggest problem is how are we going to afford fixing anywhere from Abby

$500,000 to $750,000 worth of damages, and what kind of decision making and input does the board seek before they invest that kind of funds?” she said.

Baker went over a list of options that the board might seek to take. The first option is to empty the pool and wait until the district can afford to fix it, with the understanding that this could be a two or three year wait. Baker said another option would be for the board to reject the FEMA grant and take the $840,000 that becomes available in July from the district’s Fund 46 account and apply that towards the pool repairs.

Baker said the board could also make budget cuts equal to $1 million. A final option would be for the board to take out a loan to pay for the repairs, but Baker advised the board to seek the public input on the matter before making that decision. Another, more dire option is to simply fill the pool with cement and repurpose the extra space.

“Any board in the state of Wisconsin can take out up to $ 1 million worth of loans. However, we should certainly seek the community’s guidance to do that,” she said. “We do not need their blessing for a vote or a referendum, but we should have their blessing to do that because that adds directly to the top of the amount that we can ask for tax revenue. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to what this community wants and what this board proceeds with.”

Rachu recommended draining the water from the pool, and the board approved a motion to do so, but the board will now have to explore its options and the future of the pool.

If board members do proceed with repairs, Rachu said they might also want to entertain the idea of expanding its size and using it to host WIAA swimming events. With repairs and proper maintenance, he said the pool should last for the next 50 years.

Superintendent to retire

Superintendent Sherry Baker made her intentions known Monday that she will be retiring at the end of the 2020-21 school year after a tenure that began Abby

with the district in July of 2016.

“I have been extremely privileged to serve this district the last five years,” Baker said. “I’m looking forward to finishing off the year strong . . . but this is my formal intent to retire at the end of the 2020-21 year.”

Baker and the board will be working with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards in the coming weeks to find her successor in time for the 2021-22 academic year.

Mask policy changed

The board made a decision to change the district’s mask policy on Monday, voting 5-2 to “highly recommend” the use of masks rather than require them once Gov. Evers statewide mask mandate expires on Nov. 21.

Board member Shanna Hackel recommended the board stay the course and maintain the requirement, but she and board member Jim Hirsch were the only two members who remained in favor of requiring a mask.

Should the mandate be extended, the school will comply, though students with a doctor’s note will be exempt.

Other business

n The board accepted the resignation of Larry Lechler as middle school boys basketball coach.

n The board approved Janalee Knapmiller as middle school girls basketball coach, Tonya Klabon as JV girls basketball coach, John Kreeger as girls basketball volunteer coach and Abigail Schreiner as middle school girls basketball coach.

n The district’s holiday concerts will be conducted virtually this year. There will be a link at the school’s website to view the concerts online.