SEA ISLE CITY — Residents on Tuesday got their first detailed look at a proposed multimillion-dollar renovation to the former public school at 4501 Park Road.

City Community Services Director Katherine Custer presented three options a committee has recommended for the future use of the building, with costs ranging from less than $2 million to 10 times that.

The first option, the cheapest, is to renovate the existing building. That did not seem popular.

There seemed to be a strong consensus to demolish the existing building and build anew. The biggest question for City Council and for the residents who weighed in Tuesday was whether to spend the additional money to include a pool.

Speakers at the meeting were divided, with advocates saying a pool would be an asset to the town and help keep families as residents, while others worried about the cost.

The issue also divided the 10-member committee established to advise council on the matter. Members were unanimous that the former school should be demolished but divided on the issue of the pool, with two members opposed, six in favor and two more willing to accept the pool only if the money would not hurt other recreation programs.

A new building with office space, room for programs, a new gymnasium with bleachers and a second floor, built to meet current flood standards, would cost $13 million to $16 million, according to Custer’s presentation.

A third option that includes all of that plus a six-lane pool kicks the cost up to $17 million to $20 million, depending on the final scope of the work, she said.

In addition, hiring the needed staff and maintaining a pool would cost $500,000 to $1 million a year, Custer said.

Like the advisory committee, members of the public seemed divided between passionate advocates for a pool and those concerned about the cost.

“What a pain in the you-know-what. And the expense. So I’d recommend against it,” said David Cohan, who owns a facility with an indoor pool. “You will always have problems with the pool.”

City Business Administrator George Savastano, who also serves as Ocean City’s business administrator and was involved in the recent extensive renovation to that city’s pool, said he is well aware of the difficulties involved with a public pool.

Several speakers said they take their children or belong themselves to the fitness center in Ocean City, which includes use of the pool. They said they’d much rather stay in Sea Isle and argued a pool would attract both families with children and seniors.

“That’s all well and good about having people come, but I don’t see enough parking if you’re going to have swim teams and a lot of people coming from the outside to use this facility,” said neighbor Jan Craine. “We don’t have enough parking as it is for the people who live there.”

Rose Mary Feola said she has wanted a municipal pool in Sea Isle since her children were small. They are now grown.

“Two of my children decided to live elsewhere because there’s nothing here for them. It broke my heart,” she said. “My oldest is marrying next Saturday and hopes to raise his children here. I have been fighting for a rec center since he was born.”

Resident Ed Nicholanco said his concern is for nonresident property owners, who will pay most of the cost of the project. He suggested the city try to get input from those property owners.

The next step will be another public meeting, this time on a Saturday morning, to allow for more input from nonresident property owners. Details on that meeting will be announced, Savastano said.

The former kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school closed in June 2012. All Sea Isle students now attend Ocean City schools. The building then served as temporary municipal and police offices after Hurricane Sandy while work continued on the multimillion-dollar municipal building where Tuesday’s meeting took place. Once that building opened in 2016, the former school became the recreation center, as well as additional office space and storage.

The existing building needs a new HVAC system, windows and doors, ramps, gymnasium and bathrooms that comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. On a recent visit, a trash can in the center of the gym collected water dripping from the roof after the morning’s rain.

The cheapest option would be renovating the existing building, which was built in 1971. Because it does not meet current flood standards, the city could not spend more than half the value of the building without being obliged to bring the facility up to code. That would mean lifting the building a few feet, which Savastano said would not make sense.

That means the city could not spend more than $2 million on renovations, Custer said.

Members of the advisory committee, and residents at the morning meeting, did not seem to consider this a reasonable option.

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