Value in pooling resources

Kindergarten students take swimming lessons Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at the Danny Jones Pool in North Charleston. (Paul Zoeller/File)

The notion of governmental cooperation might sound far-fetched in these contentious, polarized times. But it’s happening locally, and it’s promising.

The parties are the Dorchester District 2 School Board and the city of North Charleston. And the likely reward is a large swimming facility that could serve students of District 2 and North Charleston residents who live in Dorchester County.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and City Council had discussed putting a complex — its sixth — in the Dorchester Road corridor.

Then in its last school tax referendum, Dorchester County voters endorsed spending $7.5 million to build a pool and fund its operations and maintenance.

The opportunity to join forces appeared, and the district and the city decided to see if they can make it work.

If negotiations pan out, North Charleston would sweeten the District 2 pot by as much as $5 million and cover the cost of operations and maintenance — an estimated $1.2 million a year. That would be offset by about $800,000, which the pool would be expected to bring in annually.

The partnership would give both entities the use of an Olympic-size pool, possibly with seating for 800, a separate therapy pool, aerobics equipment and offices.

District 2 would get a year-round place for high school swim teams to practice and compete and for elementary school students to learn water safety and swimming. And adults and families would have a place to improve their fitness and health.

In short, both District 2 and North Charleston would get more bang for their bucks.

And North Charleston City Councilman Ron Brinson, who has worked on this initiative, is hopeful that the partnership will help knit together the long established parts of Dorchester County like Summerville and the county’s growing population base in North Charleston.

But the plan is still developing. District 2 plans to hold community meetings for input on the design and amenities it will offer — possibly similar to those at a facility in Greenville.

Schools in the Lowcountry have lagged other places in the country in swimming instruction. That’s particularly worrisome because of the landscape here — the Atlantic Ocean, multiple rivers, creeks and lakes. Children need water safety skills.

But in school districts with crowded and aging schools, pools cannot be the first priority. It’s admirable that the people of District 2 voted to provide money for a swimming pool. And it’s fortuitous that North Charleston was moving in the same direction.

If approved, the complex would be adjacent to Fort Dorchester High School. Plans call for an EMS station and a library near there, too.

Mr. Brinson is optimistic about the pool and pleased at the city’s partnership with District 2. “Maybe we’ll begin to feel even more comfortable about doing ‘bigger bang’ projects — throughout Greater Charleston,” he said.

Cooperation. It’s not a bad word after all.