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Parks & Rec approves RWC site for pool

After discussion and late re-vote, board articulates that RWC is now the only option

November 9, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

The Estherville Parks & Recreation Board saved for last a discussion of the new municipal pool. A discussion of the Oct. 16 pool committee meeting and a brainstorm from the Regional Wellness Center board to have a splash pad on its property soon touched on a disagreement among the board that has been kicked down the road over the course of the new pool process.

Bob Jensen, also a member of the RWC board, said the board had proposed a project for the community, not just the RWC of a splash pad outside its indoor pool area that would be free to the public, requiring no membership or fees.

The new pool was approved by the Estherville City Council, with support from the council going to the favorite location chosen by the community through a community survey, a plot north of Thoreson Park.

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Issues with land acquisition with the Thoreson location knocked that location out of consideration.

After the pool committee met for more than a year, providing designs for each of the two locations they narrowed to, Thoreson, which was slightly more expensive but had the advantage of working in additional parking for its ballfields, and the green space near the RWC, which had land freely available but was arguably not as convenient for some families, it reconvened to discuss next step.

City administrator Penny Clayton said the committee was disappointed the city could not move forward with the Thoreson Park location, and came away from the meeting wondering about reopening a discussion of the space behind Roosevelt School.

Fact Box

Pictured: a rendition of the layout of a new municipal pool on land available at the RWC

Board member Tina Jensen said, "I think we need to be all together on this. This [pool project] will affect us for 100 years."

Board member Bob Jensen said, "After this many years with no pool, it's enough." Bob Jensen added that the community should know what has been going on within the board, though he did not explain what the community did not already know.

Board member Laurel Hash said the pool committee has given the community the option of two locations, one of which was ruled up.

"This is more tearing the community apart than bringing them together for a $5 million project. Whatever we decide, we will have a group of people angry with us," Hash said.

Joan Heckard, one of two board members also serving on the pool committee, said, "The pool committee just thought the Thoreson location was better."

Clayton said, "There is not general leadership support for opening up discussion of another site."

Previous problems pointed out with the site at Roosevelt included uncertainty about the future use of the building and proximity to the Estherville Foods plant, creating what Clayton called a more industrial neighborhood.

The board then held a vote on whether or not to articulate its approval of the RWC site for city council action.

The vote was then three for and three against, with board member Gary Phillips absent.

Bob Jensen said, "What are we going to do now? Apparently this board is unable to complete a project this big."

Tina Jensen said, "I disagree. I am not going to participate in any decisions without the input of the pool committee. They have worked so hard. We need to all talk together."

Clayton said the pool committee has designed a great layout for the pool.

"That doesn't go away. We're not at square one," Clayton said.

Clayton said the issue of the rendering plant odor is a legitimate issue relating to the RWC site.

A trial date of Nov. 26 has been set in the pursuit of fines from the county against the Central Bi-Products rendering plant.

Bob Jensen polled the dissenters about why they voted against moving forward with the RWC.

Anne Ingvall said, "I felt they should have brought some of these concerns to us. I wouldn't want to have them not help with the capital campaign."

One step in the process of developing a new pool is a capital campaign to raise finishing funds and purchase fun accoutrements for the pool.

Board member Joan Heckard said she did not have any public statement on her opinion at this time.

Bob Jensen said, "Let's get it done."

Tina Jensen said, "Let's get it done right."

The board meeting was stretching into its second hour, and Tina Jensen had to leave.

Bob Jensen said, "Is the RWC such a horrible plan with its free land, being part of the school complex on Third Avenue? This has gone on way too long."

Hash said, "Something has to happen. This process is not moving along."

Clayton said it was possible to have another meeting to get the pool committee together with the board and discuss the location further.

"We need to move forward with an option. The pool will be a fantastic recreational opportunity for our citizens and for those who visit us and use our recreational facilities," Clayton said.

Clayton added that the pool consultant said location of the project causes more struggle than anything else in many communities.

"The fact that it can't go at Thoreson is unsettling to the pool committee, but now we must move on with our one option."

Ingvall said, "If absolutely nothing can be done, let's move forward. Then the community can decide on the bond. I change my vote."

After a new motion was presented, the four board members still present at the meeting voted unanimously to approve the RWC site.

Clayton said after the municipal bond process, bid letting, and other steps, the best case scenario is to have a new municipal pool in the summer of 2021.

In other business, the board also discussed repairing the old pool temporarily for possible use for the next two seasons. A contractor was scheduled to look at the pool, but never showed up. Maintenance director Roger Hash has contacted another company who is scheduled to look at the old pool this week.

The board discussed plans for a new campground near the VFW. The board also discussed irrigating the infield of the ballfields at Thoreson Park for baseball tournaments and possibly for Little League games.

The board also discussed budget priorities, a discussion continued for next month, its last meeting of 2018.

The board also discussed Veterans Memorial Park.

"Without the hard work of our volunteers, we would not be where we are today," Clayton said. The board approved the addition of a pergola to provide a shady space to sit at the park.

The next meeting of the Parks & Rec board is Monday, Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers of city hall.



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