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Pool closure leads to major renovation project

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif-- A contractor rips the drainage system open on the base pool here Oct. 6.  Renovations are updating the system saving the Air Force an estimated $70,000 dollars per year.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif-- A contractor rips the drainage system open on the base pool here Oct. 6. Renovations are updating the system saving the Air Force an estimated $70,000 dollars per year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- This summer base residents were sorely disappointed to find their base pool closed following a vandalism incident, but now crews from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron are making the best of a bad situation and are working to build a better, more cost effective pool for Team Vandenberg. 

In early August, vandals broke in and shattered fluorescent light bulbs in and around the pool area. Tiny glass shards, barely visible to the human eye, posed a serious health risk to swimmers, so the pool was shut down and drained to clean up the mess. 

The closure of the pool caused quite a stir within the base community; swimming lessons had to be canceled and a base triathlon abruptly turned into a biathlon. Even the local media took note of the incident, sending reporters and camera crews to cover the story. 

With the pool drained, civil engineers saw an opportunity to renovate its aging infrastructure. 

"We said 'It's got to be shut down and it's due for repairs,'" said Sam Leveck, an engineering technician with 30th CES. "We decided to get the job done right." 

While empty, the team was able to perform tests to evaluate the condition of the pool. Analysis revealed cracks in aging water pipes as well as the pool liner. This led to the Vandenberg pool losing six inches of water per day. While this may seem minor, according to Mr. Leveck's estimates refilling the pool with water and maintaining its comfortable 85 degree temperature was costing the base an additional $70,000 a year. 

"We were definitely lucky to identify these cracks," Mr. Leveck said. "Now we are in the process of replacing all the cast iron pipes from the 1980s with new PVC piping." 

After the pipes are replaced, the pool will receive a brand-new fiberglass liner, as well as a solar water heating system. 

The repairs do come with a price tag, costing the base about $350,000; however these repairs will more than pay for themselves, Mr. Leveck said. 

"With all the savings we'll see, this project will pay for itself in five years," said, Mr. Leveck. "Not to mention that these repairs should be good for 20 years." 

Renovations began this week and are expected to run into the holiday season. 

"Right now we are hoping to be back on-line in mid-December," Mr. Leveck said. 

So Vandenberg must wait a while longer or drive a little further to meet their aquatic sports needs, but base officials are confident that the pool will be worth the wait. 

"This project is all about providing a state-of-the-art swimming facility for Airmen and their families," said Chris Cowderoy, chief of the 30th Force Support Squadron's community service flight. 

When the work is all said and done, Vandenberg residents can look forward to a new and improved pool facility. 

"I'm glad to be getting this project underway," Mr. Leveck said. "It's going to be awesome when it's done."