Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Montana State Univers i ty- Northern's chancellor said Friday that the institution is looking into designs for a wellness center the universi ty would use to replace Northern’s defunct swimming pool. Chancellor Frank Trocki said state engineers are looking at the space in Northern’s gymnasium which now houses the pool, shut down since 2006, to create plans and a cost estimate “to fill it in and create what I would call a state-of-theart wellness center.” The university would attempt to raise $400,000 which it could use as a match for a grant bequeathed by Klabzuba Oil and Gas in January 2006 to build the center, Trocki said. The po o l was c l o s ed a f ew months after Klabzuba presented the grant, when, after work was done earlier in the school year to patch together its boiler and to replace its chlorinator, the circulation pump failed. Trocki said the decision to close and replace the pool was made before he was hired as Northern’s chancellor last summer. “Given the high cost of repair, the ongoing maintenance issues and the lack of student use MSUNorthern has decided to close the pool and renovate the space to better meet the ever changing needs of our students,” the university wrote i n a p o s i t i o n statement on the pool about 18 months after it was closed. Trocki said Friday that the cost to get the pool operat ing again was estimated at $50,000- $ 6 0 , 0 0 0 t h r e e years ago, and the cost to fully repair and operate it now is prohibitive. “Unless someone can come up with a half-a-million dollars, I don’t see how to open it,” he said. He said that operating the pool creates a high expense, comparing it to the clash between the City of Ha v r e a n d t h e Hi l l C o u n t y Commission on how to fund the Havre community pool. Trocki said the decision to close the pool at Northern is tied to those high costs. “The maintenance cost to run a Pool is phenomenal,” Trocki said. He said that, in its last full year of operation, it cost Northern $170,000 to maintain and operate its pool. That cannot be done using money from the state, and must be paid through fees and assessments, Trocki added. “The (student) population isn’t there,” Trocki said, adding that the costs would be paid by students who then will graduate from Northern and no longer be using the pool. The plan is to fill in and cover the pool, designing a wellness center in its place. Trocki said the center could include areas for working out, perhaps for practicing Tai Chi, and for other activities. “It would be something that would give the students, faculty and staff a place to go to work out and expand their minds,” Trocki said. Northern still has about two-anda- half years to raise the funds to gain access to the Klabzuba grant before the deadline on that grant, he said. Trocki added that he would love to see Northern offer both a swimming pool and wellness center, but that he doesn’t see how the university could fund both. He believes pursuing a wellness center would be a better project, he added. “By doing that, I think it would benefit a greater population than a pool would,” Trocki said.