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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Hartvigsen Pool, connected to the former Hartvigsen School in South Salt Lake, has primarily been used by people with disabilities. Now that Granite School District has built a new Hartvigsen School, community members want Salt Lake County to take over the old pool, which is indoor, heated and a better environment for some children with autism than community pools.

SALT LAKE CITY — Community members, among them Paralympic gold medalist Muffy Davis, want the Salt Lake County Council to use the pool at the former Hartvigsen School for county-run adaptive recreation programs.

Earlier this week, Davis told the County Council there is growing demand for recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

"It's not just the kids, but adults and the aging population," she said.

The pool, located at 350 E. Baird Circle (3605 South), was built about 40 years ago, but the Granite School District discontinued its use after opening a new Hartvigsen School in Taylorsville. The school serves students with disabilities.

Utah International Charter School opened in the former Hartvigsen building, but the pool has not been used since October 2013.

Liz Eagan, who helped design the pools in the original Hartvigsen School, said the facility has features that make it accessible and less stressful for people for disabilities to enjoy.

The pool was built with ramps to enable people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility issues to enter the water easily.

The temperature of the water at the pool is kept around 90 degrees, which is optimal for people who have arthritis, cerebral palsy and other conditions, Eagan said. The building's compressed air system helps keep swimmers warm once they leave the water.

The pool also has features that help buffer noise and the illumination of harsh overhead lights, both of which can be disruptive to people with autism spectrum disorders, she said.

While several members of the County Council and Mayor Ben McAdams' administration expressed interest in leasing the pool from Granite School District to expand the county's recreational opportunities for people with disabilities, there are many unanswered questions.

Parks and Recreation Director Martin Jensen said the county needs additional information from the school district to ensure the costs presented to the council are accurate.

While the pool has been well maintained, it will require some improvements to bring it up to standards of other county-run pools, such as the ultraviolet pool sanitation equipment, Jensen said. There is no office in the building so storage space would need to be converted for that purpose, he said.

Between the one-time outlay for upgrades to the pool and building, and ongoing costs of hiring staff and other operating costs, the program would cost more than $500,000 a year, according to preliminary estimates, Jensen said.

While members of McAdams' administration expressed support for the concept, the new recreational program would compete with other budget priorities, said Deputy Mayor Nichole Dunn.

"It's a program we're already offering, and it's an opportunity to serve more clients," said Community Services Director Erin Litvack. "It definitely warrants our consideration. It's intriguing to have a fully adaptive program in one location."

The county offers other recreational programs that serve people with disabilities. Its Otters Swim Club serves youths ages 5-18 with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disabilities. The program provides instruction in swimming, stroke development and social skills.

Jensen said the program started with eight children and now has 50 and a waiting list of 150.

Between programming for people with disabilities, disabled veterans and the county's aging population, there would be high demand for the services, he said.

Eagan said there is an acute need for recreation programs and services within the community for young people who age out of special education services in public schools.

County Councilman Max Burdick said a lease would enable the county to determine if the program is economically feasible and whether the Hartvigsen pool is suitable for a long-term arrangement.

Meanwhile, Councilman Jim Bradley said the county has a "wonderful history" of providing adaptive recreation for people with disabilities.

The cost of leasing the pool seemed reasonable compared with new construction, Bradley said.

"You have a pool that's ready to go," he said.

"This is what we do," Bradley said of the county's history of providing a broad array of recreational opportunities to people of all ages and abilities. "This is what we should be delighted to do."

The county has a number of recreational programs featuring Paralympic sports, as well as opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said conversations about use of the pool are ongoing.

"We feel comfortable that we're going to find some arrangement if they have an interest in pursuing use of that property," Horsley said.

The pool could be leased for approximately $7,500 a month, which would cover the school district's costs.

"If this is something the county wants to pursue, I have no doubt we'll be able to provide that service," Horsley said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com