FUSD jumps off the blocks for aquatic center

Jim Wiley Aquatic Center begins construction 16 years after Meek family donation

@TheSunGazette

FARMERSVILLE – It had been a dream of the late Garry Meek to see the community of Farmersville have their own pool. After 16 years of waiting, the first steps toward realizing that dream were taken when ground was broken at the soon to be Jim Wiley Aquatic Center at Farmersville High School last Friday.

“This has been a long time coming,” Farmersville Unified School District Trustee John Vasquez said. “This is something which should have happened right when we first built the high school.”

The aquatic center will be located in the vacant lot north of the football stadium which runs along Walnut Avenue. It will include a competition size pool which will be used for swimming and water polo, and will utilize the concessions and ticket building at the football stadium. A parking lot and a 50-yard practice field will be built on the rest of the property. The entire project is estimated to cost a $6.5 million, and is slated to be done some time next year. According to Vasquez the project is already a month behind schedule.

Students also put up signs honoring the namesake of the future facility. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

Students also put up signs honoring the namesake of the future facility. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

Pastor Wiley, who the center is named after, was present at the ground-breaking ceremony. The school presented him with a plaque and a gift basket celebrating his years of service to the Farmersville community, on not only religious issues, but health and safety issues as well.

“You have been there for us, and we thank you,” Farmersville High School Principal Lisa Whitworth said.

James Meek witnessed first-hand the dedication Wiley had to the community after his father Garry Meek, 56, and daughter Amy Lynn Meek, 13, were killed in an automobile accident. In 2000 the family was on vacation in Wyoming when a tire blew on the former police and fire chief’s Ford Explorer causing it to roll over. Wiley traveled out to where the family was in Wyoming in order to best console the grieving family.

It was later determined faulty tread on the Firestone tires on the Ford Explorer separated which caused the accident. The Meek family later sued Ford and Firestone. Their case was heard by the Los Angeles Superior Court. The family settled for an undisclosed amount.

Two years later on August 13, 2002 at a school board meeting the Meek family donated $1 million dollars toward the building of a pool. They requested the pool be named after Jim Wiley.

“It has been a long time coming, and I’m just happy to see we’re finally this far,” James Meek said.

Right to Left: Randy DeGraw, Alice Lopez, John Vasquez, John Alvarez, Debra Wiley, Kara Wiley, Teresa Wiley, Jim Wiley, Claudia Wiley, Lupe Fernandez, Jorge Vazquez, Jeanette Meek, James Meek, Bill Meek break ground where the Jim Wiley Aquatic Center will be located at Farmersville High School. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

Right to Left: Randy DeGraw, Alice Lopez, John Vasquez, John Alvarez, Debra Wiley, Kara Wiley, Teresa Wiley, Jim Wiley, Claudia Wiley, Lupe Fernandez, Jorge Vazquez, Jeanette Meek, James Meek, Bill Meek break ground where the Jim Wiley Aquatic Center will be located at Farmersville High School. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

Garry was an original member of the Farmersville swimming pool committee in 1971. He along with other community members pioneered the idea of proving a safe place for kids to swim during the summers. In contrast to the local canals.

“Today, Garry Meek’s dream, and the dream of this community has been kept alive,” Whitworth said. “We will realize that dream as we move forward on this construction of the Jim Wiley Aquatic complex.”

At the school board’s April 25 meeting they unanimously selected Integrated Designs by SOMAM, Inc in Fresno to be the architecture on this project. Integrated has designed everything from ground floor strip malls to multi-level convention centers. They had previously designed several high school pool projects at Kingsburg, Chowchilla, Denair, and Yosemite high schools just to name a few.

This was the second time the district had selected an architect. The school board originally selected Mangini Associates on Sept. 27, 2016. But when the contract was presented to the board for approval on Oct. 25 of the same year it was pulled so that it could be reviewed by the attorney. On Nov. 4, the attorney informed Superintendent Randy DeGraw that, “the district was good to move forward” for the Nov. 15 meeting.

At its Nov. 15 meeting, the Farmersville Unified School District Board did not approve the $447,500 contract, and the motion died due to a lack of a second. In addition to selecting a new architect the budget was increased to its current amount. The new number was placed as a hard cap for the project.

On Nov. 12, 2013 the school board established a Special Reserve Fund and transferred the money out to the General Fun 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 fabrication shop, was built with funds from Measure A, a $4.8 million bond approved by Farmersville voters in November 2014.

Start typing and press Enter to search