Nearly three months after the Bluffton Indoor Pool closed, county officials announced a new plan they say will get families back in the water by August.
The pool was closed in February after an inspection as part of the county’s ‘master plan’ to update its four swimming pools revealed that the roof of the Bluffton Pool on Pritchard Street was at risk of collapsing in the event of high winds violent or heavy rains. The new plan, announced this week via press release, involves replacing roof panels and structural roof ties and would cost less than a previous proposal that would have removed the roof altogether.
“The current construction market is full of surprises,” Jared Fralix, deputy county administrator, said in the news release. “The contractor came up with a cost-effective construction plan that allowed us to replace the Bluffton Pool roof and be $100,000 under budget.”
According to Beaufort County spokesman Chris Ophardt, the previous roof removal plan would have cost more than $1 million. The new plan, which will cost around $900,000, was conceived when county contractor, CE Bourne & Co.a roofing company in Greenwood, South Carolina, said it could retrofit the existing structure at a lower cost.
“The beams weren’t necessarily the problem, it was the ties that held the roof to the beams,” Ophardt said. “[The cost of the new plan is] just what is available and what we can get right now with the way the construction market really works.
If the estimate was in six months, Ophardt said, the contractor told them they might have a different answer in terms of options and price. The money for the new plan will come from a surplus in the county’s 2022 budget.
As the roof is being renovated, programs like the Bluffton Fins swim team and children’s swim lessons have been moved to different Beaufort County pools, Ophardt said. The Lowcountry Autism Foundation, a program that provides free resources for families with autistic children, was also practicing at the pool when it closed. Due to logistical reasons for parents and the swim instructor, they cannot travel to Beaufort for their lessons, said Sophia Townes, the organizer of the foundation’s free swim program in Beaufort County. They use a private owner’s pool.
“The owner who allowed us to do this just sold his house,” Townes said. “They were extremely accommodating to us. Right now we are at the mercy of the pool reopening. »
Townes has decided to suspend classes until Bluffton Pool reopens. She is ‘stress empathetic to families’ struggling to find solutions for their children as she has two sons with autism and knows the worries that arise in the summer when families are around water more often. Children with autism are “drawn to water,” Townes said, and can be a runaway risk, which means they wander away, which in “Beaufort County where we’re surrounded by water “, can potentially endanger their lives. There are approximately 3,960 fatal child drownings in the United States each year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children with autism are 160 times more likely to die from drowning than other children, according to statistics from Columbia University.
“It’s so important that we get these kids swimming; their lives depend on it,” Townes said.