Find more funding for new Estancia High aquatic center, Newport-Mesa board tells staffers

Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustees advised staff Tuesday to find additional funding for Estancia High School’s planned aquatic center, despite its higher-than-anticipated cost.

District staff will return to the school board in January, when trustees will determine whether to move forward with the project all at once or phase in elements over several years.

“Phasing is something available, and we’ve done it in almost every project,” Supt. Fred Navarro said. “We can’t afford high quality of everything right away.

“We’d ask … for three to four options we can choose from and say ‘This is our best option.’ Or wait a couple of years to do it and there’s the possibility of one-time money. A lot of scenarios can take place.”

In a 47-page report provided by Aliso Viejo-based Cumming Corp., the total estimated construction cost of the aquatic center at the Costa Mesa school is more than $8.1 million, though it could increase to as much as $10 million.

The cost includes an Olympic-size 50-meter pool, a coaches’ office, a team room, pool restrooms, a snack bar, site work and furnishings, a lunch area and other spaces.

The addition of a team room and other elements raised the cost, pushing the project about $3 million over budget, Tim Holcomb, district assistant superintendent and chief operating officer, said during Tuesday morning’s special board meeting.

About $700,000 has already been spent on preliminary work, he said.

In October, the school board disregarded four bids ranging from about $7.5 million to $7.7 million because they were significantly higher than expected.

Feedback from Cumming, a cost management consultant, would help give a better sense of what the board may want to spend instead of cutting or increasing the project’s original $7-million budget, Holcomb said.

The aquatic center was originally scheduled to open in time for the fall 2018 sports season. Holcomb said the district expects to break ground around this time next year and complete the project by fall 2019.

Estancia’s existing pool — an L-shaped structure 25 yards long on one side and about 27 yards on the other — would be filled in and replaced with an outdoor courtyard.

Estancia is the only Newport-Mesa comprehensive high school that doesn’t have an Olympic-size pool.

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