By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
FARMERSVILLE – The Farmersville community has long envisioned an public pool in town where children can learn to swim, families can cool off in the summer and teens can compete in several sports and the high school can finally host a home swim meet or start a water polo program. And last month, that vision finally became a reality, at least on paper.
The Farmersville Unified School Board got its first look at graphic renderings of a future aquatic center during an informational study session at its Aug. 23 meeting. The aquatic center will be built where the practice field is currently located at the northeast corner of the high school along Walnut Avenue. Integrated Designs by SOMAM, Inc., the architect for the project, presented two options to the school board. Option 1 is to fully develop the practice field area north of Garry L. Meek Stadium for the competition pool, wading pool and deck, locker rooms, equipment building and a 150-stall parking lot.
Option 2 would keep a smaller, striped practice field of about 50 yards but downsize the parking lot to 63 spaces and add a maintenance drive along the eastern side of the sports complex connecting Walnut to the practice field, pool and stadium. Both options would install a fence with access gates around the entire edge of the school along Walnut Avenue.
A rendering of the project showed that the entrance to the aquatic center will include a 3,846-square foot building with signage identifying it as the Jim Wiley Aquatic Center on one side and the Field House on the other. Facing the pool will be a concession between entrances to the men’s and women’s locker rooms. The other half will include an open floor plan that can be partitioned into two classrooms, offices for coaches, film rooms or meeting rooms. Next to that will be a 1,500-square foot equipment building.
The board selected SOMAM as the architect at its April 25 meeting. The company has designed everything from ground floor strip malls to multi-level convention centers. They have previously designed several high school projects including Kingsburg, Chowchilla, Denair and Yosemite high schools.
The high school pool has been on the minds of Farmersville residents since 2002 when the Meek family donated $1 million following a settlement in the tragic crash that killed the former Police and Fire Chief, 56-year-old Garry Meek, and his 13-year-old granddaughter, Amy Lynn Meek.
The Meek case was chosen as one of the first of the 150 lawsuits filed against Ford Motor Co. and Firestone regarding the recall of defective tires. The Meek family was very hesitant when it came to settlement offers, but settled for an undisclosed amount just as they were preparing their opening statements, according to the archives of The Exeter Sun.
On Nov. 12, 2013 the school board established a special reserve fund and transferred the money out of the general fund and into the new special fund. The money is actually being held with the Tulare County Treasurer’s Office where it has been growing due to interest and other donations. The account for the Jim Wiley Pool has grown to more than $1.4 million.
The remaining $5.1 million of the pool project will be paid for by a $6 million certificate of participation (COP), or loan, to be paid back with $1.5 million in career and technical education funds that would be reimbursed by the State for Farmersville’s vocational education building at the high school. The building, which includes four labs for building trades and ag technology as well as a classroom and a fabrication shop, was built with funds from Measure A, a $4.8 million bond approved by Farmersville voters in November 2014.