September 13, 2012
The Grimsley High School swimming pool appears to be headed toward an unnecessary death by neglect.
The indoor pool, which is owned by the City of Greensboro
, not Guilford County Schools
, was closed on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 2011 – a date which shall live in infamy.
City Council is considering whether to repair, demolish or replace the pool, but Greensboro
Mayor Robbie Perkins said he supports demolition and expects his fellow councilmembers to do the same. And a Greensboro
staff spokesman said city staff plans to recommend demolition to the City Council.
"If the school board wants to spend $4 million to $5 million of their money on another pool, that's their decision," Perkins said. "I don't see that the City Council is going to spend $5 million to fix someone else's pool. After all, it is a school facility."
The problem is, that's not true, since the city owns the pool and has contractually committed itself to maintain it. If the city does not maintain the pool, it is supposed to revert back to the school system.
"I've been over there with my family and swam," he said. "It's fulfilled its purpose. Now it's a building that's not safe to occupy, so it's time to go in another direction. But I'm not surprised by the staff's recommendation."
The indoor pool was built by the City of Greensboro
in 1975, on land deeded to it by the old Greensboro
school system, to be a pool for Grimsley students during school days and a city pool after hours, on weekends and during the summer. In return, the Greensboro
school system built a matching swimming pool at Smith High School for school and city use.
The Grimsley pool was closed after a gust of wind damaged the roof last year. But recent photographs of the pool presented to the Greensboro
City Council on Sept. 4 show interior and exterior damage from a long-term failure by the city to maintain the building.
The engineering firm Sutton-Kennerly and Associates and Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce Architects have spent the last 14 years documenting the deterioration of the pool, but the only repairs that have been done were a round of fixes in 2000 to counteract foundation settling and roof support deterioration.
Guilford County Board of Education Chairman Alan Duncan would not comment on Perkins' opinion, because he said the Greensboro
Parks and Recreation Department staff had not yet made a recommendation on what to do with the Grimsley pool, and the City Council had not yet voted on the issue.
Duncan did say, with a strong tinge of sarcasm, that he supposed The Rhino Times would support the school board if it argues that the city should fix the pool.
The deed to the land for the pool sold to Greensboro
for $10 in 1975, as well as the shared-use agreement drawn up the same year, give the city the responsibility of maintaining the pool, apparently in perpetuity, since there is no end date for the agreement. The city hasn't done so.
In North Carolina, through the miracle of maintenance, there are people living in houses built in the 1700s. In Europe, there are medieval houses and public buildings still in use. In Guilford County, it seems impossible to get government entities to maintain buildings for 25 years.Guilford County Schools
is no stranger to the problem. Some of its school buildings, even ones younger than some of the teachers who work in them, are in dreadful shape. But in this case the legal responsibility for maintaining the Grimsley pool falls on the city's shoulders.
The Sept. 23, 1975 deed transferring the land to the city specifies that it is for the purpose of the city building a swimming pool. The deed specifies that, if the land is ever not used for a swimming pool, or if the city stops maintaining it, ownership of the property reverts to the school system.
The Feb. 4, 1975 shared-use agreement, titled "Joint City-School Agreement for Swimming Facilities" and covering the construction and maintenance of the Grimsley and Smith pools, as well as the shared-use provisions, requires the school system to build the Smith swimming pool and the city to build the Grimsley swimming pool.
"The 'City' shall retain title to the property deeded to it by the 'School Board' and shall be responsible for the maintenance of the total swimming pool facility located at Grimsley High School," the agreement states. "The 'School Board' shall be responsible for maintaining the total swimming pool facility at Smith High School. The parties hereto shall endeavor to keep the aforementioned swimming pool facilities in good order and repair at all times."
As the pictures in the staff presentation to the City Council show, the Grimsley pool is not in "good order and repair." The brickwork on the outside of the swimming pool building has shifted and is uneven; the inside walls are cracked and patched; and, according to Sutton-Kennerly, the pool may have been built on unsuitable soil that should be replaced, undermining the structural integrity of the pool, in addition to the roof damage.
"Essentially, the structural cracks in the walls along with other structural failures inside of the building result from unsuitable soils the building is built on," former Guilford County Schools
Chief Operations Officer Andrew LaRowe, who retired August 31, wrote the school board on August 30. "The assessment has identified additional concerns with corrosion of metal brackets associated with the pre-cast roof trusses and failures related to the brick veneer bond to the exterior walls of the building."
On August 22, 2012, city officials met with Guilford County School Superintendent Mo Green to discuss the future of the Grimsley pool. LaRowe wrote that the city "is not in a position to replace the pool at Grimsley," but that "The City and GCS are in discussions concerning the cost impact to the individual schools that have routinely made use of the Grimsley pool and whether or not the City can assist with the cost."
Sutton-Kennerly gave Greensboro
four options on the pool: fixing it to extend its life for up to 15 years, for $4.9 million; building a new pool on the site for $4.3 million; building a new pool on a different site for $4.4 million; or simply demolishing the building and pool for $375,000.
Perkins said he would only support demolishing the pool. He said, "That's the only recommendation that makes sense, because it costs $300,000 instead of $4 million or $5 million."Greensboro
staff members have not yet made a recommendation to the City Council, but reportedly they will recommend demolition.
The city staff recommended two alternatives for swimming teams who had been using the Grimsley pool – using the new Greensboro
Aquatic Center or using a pool at Bennett College.Greensboro
City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan, like everyone interviewed for this story, made polite noises about city-schools cooperation. But he called attention to Paragraph 5 of the shared-use agreement, emphasizing its requirement that the city and the school systems "endeavor" to keep the pools maintained – a weak requirement that may leave the city a way to attempt to weasel out of fixing the pool....continued on page 2