ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — A fight over a South Valley pool will likely come to a head Wednesday night as some Albuquerque Public School board members believe the district is bowing to political pressure and spending money it doesn’t have to help pay for renovations.
The Albuquerque Public School Board is expected to vote Wednesday night on a proposal to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to remodel the Rio Grande Indoor Pool.
But some board members say to do that they’ll have to take money away from voter approved facility projects and possibly classrooms.
Sitting on the Rio Grande High School campus off Atrisco and Arenal Road SW, the indoor pool is used by students and the community. It was demolished last year after 38 years of operation because it was in a state of disrepair.
The county and state have now pitched in most of the more than $3 million needed to revamp it.
APS is being asked to chip in $400,000.
APS board president Analee Maestas told News 13 that there’s plenty of money to give.
“It certainly can come from capital master plan, there may be some need to take it out of operational. There is carryover money they could use for this purpose as well,” said Maestas.
But board member Marty Esquivel says there’s a catch on that plan and he’ll vote “no” on the proposal. Board member Kathy Korte also told News 13 she intends to vote “no” on the pool funding measure.
“Not to take away from the importance of this project to the community, it is really a county responsibility,” said Esquivel.
Esquivel says if the board votes yes, APS may have to take money away from classrooms to fund it or other voter-approved district projects. The projects are assessed every six years as part of the district’s Capital Master Plan. APS says the pool isn’t a priority on the list as the district doesn’t own a single pool.
“So it would actually be leapfrogging over other projects which have been identified as a higher priority,” said Esquivel.
So why is it up for consideration? Esquivel blames politics.
“It’s obviously coming from members of the county commission, it’s coming from a couple legislators and I think in all fairness, they’ve approached Dr. Maestas,” said Esquivel.
He says the pressure is coming from Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz and state Senator Michael Padilla who represent the area.
“It would be completely unfair to really to prioritize based on politics not based on need,” said Esquivel.
But Senator Padilla disagrees he says he did his part and got the state to hand over money for the project.
“My question is why wasn’t this a part of the district’s master plan? These kids deserve a swimming pool,” said Senator Padilla.
The county is putting $2.9 million into the pool, while the state is pitching in $300,000.
Commissioner Art De La Cruz didn’t return calls for comment, but instead had a county spokesperson call to say he had no comment until the vote is complete.
It’s unclear how the project will be paid for if APS votes against giving it money. The county is hoping to start remodeling soon.