Alva Review-Courier -

Questions asked and answered about swimming pool project

 

Marione Martin

These are some of the people attending the public hearing concerning the fate of the Alva Municipal Swimming Pool Monday night.

Around 50 people participated in a public hearing at the Alva Municipal Swimming Pool Monday night. The meeting was a continuation of the city council meeting that began earlier at City Hall. The hearing at the pool started about 8:15 p.m. and ended at 9:45 p.m. when people ran out of questions.

Mayor Kelly Parker opened the hearing, required for a swimming pool project grant application. The city is applying for a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal fund administered in the state by the Tourism and Recreation Department. For the grant, the city is submitting the swimming pool plan with the highest price tag, $3.8 million, out of six possible concepts. Often, the grants are awarded for a lesser amount than the total requested. And there's no guarantee Alva will receive any grant monies.

Parker said the application deadline is July 31. If Alva receives the full amount requested, which would be $1.9 million (half of the total), then the city will have to come up with a matching $1.9 million. The grant requires the city to pay half of the cost, matching the total of the grant.

Alva's Rainy Day Funds

At the meeting earlier downtown, Meagan Caldwell asked several questions. Since they were about the pool, the mayor said they would wait until moving to the swimming pool to answer. Caldwell pointed out the city has nearly enough money in certificates of deposit to pay for the pool.

Parker said the funds available to the city currently are about $350,000 in cash and $180,000 in CDs. The other CDs in the total Caldwell cited belong to other city entities such as the airport, the recreation park, the cemetery, the library and the scholarship fund. Only those designated for the general fund, about $180,000, are available for general city use.

"We'd be happy to provide you with the exact list of all the CDs, how much is in each CD and what they are designated for," said Parker.

Later in the meeting, Jane McDermott asked what makes up the "rainy day fund." Parker explained it is the city's stabilization fund that is presently held in CDs. "The CDs are that $2.1 million in investments that we have."

He estimated around $750,000 of that belongs to the airport, around $500,000 to the recreation complex and $500,000 to the economic development/scholarship fund with lesser amounts for other funds. The general fund can claim only about $180,000 of the total.

He said the stabilization fund is set back in case of an event where the city is unable to collect revenue. It would allow the city to pay for city operations and services for a period of time.

City Business Manager Joe Don Dunham added the fund, set up about six to eight years ago, requires a 7/8 majority vote of the eight member council and a declaration of an emergency for the funds to be used. An emergency might be a tornado or a loss of income.

Caldwell asked about a recent meeting with a representative of Pristine Pools. Dunham said he had spoken with the rep about the project. Caldwell referred to a meeting in May where a repair estimate was discussed. She asked if it was true that $3.8 million was given as the cost of the project to be paid by the bond issue and $1.3 million out of the rainy day fund.

"I don't know that that can be declared an accurate statement, but I can clarify maybe the $3.8 million," said Parker. He said in the engineer's plan 6 that was the estimate of the cost.

Parker said when he looks at the estimates, he can see some places where the cost can come down such as overly high ($60,000) estimates on fencing and lighting that might not be needed. This would reduce the overall cost.

"We believe that with the bond issue along with the funds we have available, that (swimming pool project) can be accomplished," he said.

Bond Funds Only for Pool

Dunham also added that if the bond issue passes, the funds will be held in a trustee bank. It will never go into the general fund and cannot be spent for anything but the swimming pool project.

Councilmember Brandon Sherman said the city has to turn in invoices to the trustee bank. If those don't align with the project, they don't get paid by the bond funds.

Councilmember Daniel Winters added, "It's also audited."

Need for Engineer

Caldwell stated that in the opinion of the Pristine Pools rep, an engineer was not needed to renovate the pool.

Parker explained that the city gets projects engineered. "It helps protect our taxpayers."

Sherman added that engineer specifications protect the public. In the case of the pool project, those specs define how deep concrete must be poured and how much concrete is needed so the pool doesn't sink again.

Refurbishing vs. Building New

Jennifer Greve asked about the cost for refurbishing the current swimming pool compared to building a new one. She asked if it was $1.6 million or $2.6 million to refurbish the pool.

Dunham said the cost for the pool is approximately $1.6 million. Remodeling the bathhouse is estimated to cost $675,000. He explained the bathhouse has to be remodeled to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility.

Greve wanted to know if the cost for refurbishing was the same as building new or cheaper.

"It's comparatively similar," replied Parker. Using the example of a vehicle, he said if you've had a car for 10 years and it develops expensive problems, many people would spend ten percent more to buy a newer or comparable car that is in good repair.

"What we have is a pool that according to the state health department is in a broken state," the mayor said. He said the repairs needed include bringing the foundation up, skimming off the gutters so they are level and bringing the south end (bathhouse, etc.) into ADA compliance for an estimate oft $2.6 million.

"The highest estimate we got on tearing out the pool, replacing and remodeling the bathhouse, was $3.8 million," he said. Parker said he believes the $3.8 million is inflated with the $60,000 for a fence and other items. He believes a more realistic estimate is $2.8 to $2.9 million.

"I think that we're looking at a situation where the cost to repair this pool is only 10 to 15 percent less than to tear this all out and have a brand new pool with all the internal functions and everything using the equipment we just purchased to be open this year."

Pool Open Next Year?

"Even if the bond issue passes, there's no guarantee the pool will be open next year," said Greve.

"We can't guarantee that," agreed Parker. He said contractor bids may be higher than the city can afford. "I would not recommend the council move forward on something where we don't already have the finances figured out."

He added that weather is another factor that could delay construction. If the bond issue passes Aug. 13, the council would advertise for bids, which could hopefully be opened before the September council meeting. But there would still be a delay for the contractors to accumulate materials and be ready to start. Dunham said they would probably start "turning dirt" in December.

"All that for a pool that will be open only three months out of the year," commented Greve.

Councilmember Randy Stelling explained the pool lifeguards are generally college students who go back to classes in mid-August. Otherwise the pool could stay open longer.

Parker added the project can also be delayed by the discovery of unexpected problems during construction.

"And getting the health inspector out here to approve it by then," said Councilmember Mary Hamilton. "That's what our trouble was this year (when pool opening was delayed)."

Problems of the Pool

Tom Crenshaw asked, "What exactly are they (health department) saying is not kosher with this pool?"

Parker said the foundation in the north end is settled and the gutter along the pool needs to be level for water to step up over it and for chemical treatment of the pool to function properly. He said the foundation of the pool is the most expensive item.

The public hearing was too lengthy to be covered in one news article. You can watch the entire hearing on video at http://www.AlvaReviewCourier.com.

 

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