Joe Centeno Aquatics Complex (Sept. 12, 2010)
Paul Wellman

On October 13, 2012, a little more than two years after the $2.4 million Joe Centeno Aquatics Complex opened in New Cuyama with much fanfare, the pool sprung a mysterious leak, and it’s been closed ever since. More than a year later, the County of Santa Barbara and CSAC Excess Insurance Authority, the on-the-hook insurance company, have finally determined what went wrong — if not exactly why or who’s to blame — but the small, rural community’s swimmers shouldn’t grab their suits just yet: The pool isn’t expected to be ready until the spring of 2015.

To some residents in the town of about 600 people, the pool represents a political boondoggle, a pricey gift from the county that can only be used from Memorial Day to Labor Day and initially cost $6 per visit, a weighty tab for the county’s most economically depressed region. (That fee was nixed after the first summer.) To many others, it’s a welcome respite from the 100-degree days of summer and the only place to learn to swim. But to all, the delay in getting it fixed seems like just the latest example of how the county’s northeastern corner is routinely forgotten. (It should be noted, however, that many residents feel more attention than ever, thanks to the frequent visits from the office staff of Supervisor Salud Carbajal, whose 1st District expanded to the the Cuyama Valley shortly after the pool was built.)

Joseph Centeno Aquatic Complex (Sept. 12, 2010)
Paul Wellman

Paddy Langlands, the deputy director of County Parks, confirmed that the community has been “skeptical” but added, “They want this pool.” As he’s reported to the newly formed pool committee, there has been a year of “inspection and destructive testing” by the insurance company, which doesn’t want to dole out the money to replace the pool “like for like” until its due diligence is done. “Before they spend the money, they’re trying to figure out what was wrong,” said Langlands, who doesn’t yet know how much the fix will cost. “A tremendous amount of investigation has happened.”

That process determined that a pipe had become disconnected in the drain box and was pumping water straight into the ground, which caused the earth to collapse and crack the pool. It remains unclear who is to blame, but the county got the go-ahead to hire an architect, whose work must again be vetted by the insurance company to ensure it is a like-for-like pool. Once that happens, the work can begin. “The county is going to rebuild it — there is no doubt about that,” pledged Langlands, who recently updated the expected end date from fall of 2014 to spring of 2015. “It’s just taking longer than we thought.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The information about the $6 fee, which only lasted one summer, has been updated since this was initiially published.


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