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Municipal pool is happening

Estherville Parks & Rec board votes unanimously to move forward with pool committee's design at RWC site

January 9, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

During a special public meeting that lasted about one hour and 45 minutes, the Estherville Parks & Recreation board voted unanimously to move forward with the municipal pool committee's design and the Regional Wellness Center site, the only site option still considered.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the condition of the existing pool on the west side of Estherville, to present the pool committee's design as well as alternate designs from Dave Burbach, and to present a timeline of the steps needed to make the new pool a reality.

City administrator Penny Clayton said the Parks & Rec board would pick up where the pool committee left off.

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Dave Burbach of Burbach Aquatics, Inc. in Platteville, Wisconsin, said the basin is unstable due to movement from thaw and freeze cycles. Engineers from Burbach examined the pool extensively and reviewed flood plain maps that indicated river flooding would also have a detrimental effect on the pool.

"We knew the existing pool had come to the end of its useful life," Burbach said.

The technical evaluation of the pool found that water was leaking as it left the pool vessel and the pumps and filters were not working properly.

Fact Box

Tax talk

Will the new municipal pool raise Estherville residents' taxes?

If the bond referendum passes, where will the money come from?

The approximately $4 million necessary to build the new pool will be raised through a municipal bond issue.

But it's not a new tax, according to city administrator Penny Clayton.

Estherville residents are currently paying on a general water and wastewater bond.

Clayton said that bond could instead be paid with gradual increases in water and sewer charges.

Then the current water and wastewater bond would become the pool bond -- the same charges now paid to a 20-year note.

"Taxes will not go up. Sewer charges have to go up at some point," Clayton said, due to the major wastewater treatment plant repair and renovation project.

"We can build slowly and build capital reserves," Clayton said.

Adding in the fact that any major renovation of the pool would mean the pool would have to be brought completely up to code would mean repairs would cost an estimated $4 million.

The ADA standards under which the existing pool was operating included accessibility up to the pool wall. Now accessibility is required to enter the pool. This is one reason zero depth entry has become popular in modern pool design.

"What we look at when evaluating a new pool vessel is whether we can get a 50-year life out of it. When we examine a pool repair, we're looking for a 25-year life," Burbach said.

To repair the existing pool in the flood plain, there would be no possibility of changing its footprint in any way.

"Some of the older pool vessels built in flood plains have floated. That's never good. It really is just throwing good money after bad," Burbach said.

Board member Bob Jensen said the brief consideration the board undertook to fix the existing pool so it would last perhaps the next two seasons came at an estimated $50,000 just to fix the filters, paint, and clean the joints. There would be no guarantee further, unseen damage wouldn't make the pool unusable anyway.

"Spending $50,000 seemed like a waste of money for a risky situation," Jensen said.

In the course of reviewing the amenities and advantages of three pool designs, Bob Jensen made a motion to accept the original design created by the Estherville municipal pool committee and move forward with that design at the RWC site, the only site still under consideration.

The Parks & Rec Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion, setting forth the first step in a timeline that spans at least to the summer of 2021 before the first splash in the new pool.

With the decision made, Clayton said the city would apply for an Emmet County Community Foundation grant this month.

A bond referendum could be presented in May, 2019 and conducted in August.

If passed, the city will apply for additional grants to lower the bond amount.

Plans and specifications will be let for bids in the fall of 2019 along with a capital campaign cabinet.

Construction would then begin in 2020 with the pool open in the summer of 2021.

What if the bond referendum doesn't pass?

Burbach said in his four decades of working with municipal pools he has seen it happen.

"We have to pause for six to eight months, talk to folks to find out why the majority did not support the plan. Then we set it for a second vote about a year later."

Members of the Parks & Rec Board set out the positive aspects of the pool.

The board has passed a viable plan.

The city council is behind the plan

The RWC supports the plan.

What would local swimmers enjoy at the new municipal pool?

Zero depth entry

A body slide flume

Six lanes for lap swimming and a 10-foot depth area for diving

A generous play area for splashing around

A lily pad for jumping and nets for hanging and climbing

The estimated cost: $4.3 million

Burbach said in his 40 years of pool construction, the idea of the pool is rarely the issue. The fight comes over the location. People have attachments to certain locations, sentimental values, memories of things that happened at the pool they consider theirs.

Tasha Welch said while she is enthusiastic about the new pool, she was hesitant about the RWC location due to trucks going by, no residential homes in the area, and the possible smell from the rendering plant and other nearby industry.

Other citizen questions related to finances, accessibility, and whether the board could gather the community support needed to make the pool happen.

Shari Bisgaard said, "We need a pool in Estherville...we need to move forward. Let's come together as a community, stay positive and let it happen."

Jensen said the RWC's plans for a new splash pad have it opening June 30, 2019.

"The splash pad will add to the excitement."

The city will be without a municipal pool whether or not the referendum passes for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The city plans to continue a contract with the RWC to have open swimming available at its indoor pool during the swimming season for the same price as the municipal pool. While attendance was down in the summer of 2018, an earlier start and more promotion could improve attendance, especially with the splash pad on the RWC property



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