Portland Park Board presented its plans Tuesday to build a new Portland Pool. The current facility (pictured) is 54 years old and has had a variety of maintenance problems. The price tag on the proposed new pool is $3.28 million. Park board members will attend Portland City Council’s meeting Monday, when the council plans to discuss the project. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Portland Park Board presented its plans Tuesday to build a new Portland Pool. The current facility (pictured) is 54 years old and has had a variety of maintenance problems. The price tag on the proposed new pool is $3.28 million. Park board members will attend Portland City Council’s meeting Monday, when the council plans to discuss the project. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
City council chambers were full Tuesday as Jay County residents, city council members, members of the citizens advisory council and summer swim parents attended the Portland Park Board meeting to hear potential plans for Portland Pool.
Cory Whitesell of HWC Engineering gave a presentation that included recommendations related to renovation of the existing pool, construction of a new pool, location of a new pool, cost estimates and a potential schedule.
Working with two park board members, two city council members, Portland Mayor Randy Geesaman and some members of the public, the engineering firm created a list of priorities for a new facility. The plan for a new facility includes a six-lane competition pool, new bathhouse, maintenance building, beach (zero) entry, lounge area, slide, dump bucket, lazy river and some other toys for children.
The proposed new facility would cost about $3.3 million (that number rose from an earlier story printed in The Commercial Review because of added features).
“The challenge that we have to go through in this is which of these do we feel like we can afford right now versus things we should put off until later on,” Whitesell said.
The next step in the process is funding the project, for which Whitesell noted the $3.3 million price tag could fluctuate if features are added or removed.
City council member Michael Brewster asked how much money park board is looking for the city to contribute.
Park board member Donald Gillespie said the park board won’t give a number on how much it wants the city to contribute until it knows the current state of the city’s finances.
“I think we’d like to hear their report from (financial adviser) Umbaugh and Associates before we do something like that,” he said.
Rod Ashman, park board president, said because the pool is a city asset, he’d like the city to pay for a majority of it.
City council is meeting Monday and plans to discuss how much could be contributed to the project. An Umbaugh representative is expected to be present to answer questions about the city’s current financial situation.
Geesaman said he hopes the public will attend that meeting to let the city know if they support spending city money on a new pool.
“I think the city will step forward,” Geesaman said. “I look forward to another great discussion on Monday night the 21st, because there’s going to be some very tough decisions we have to make that night.”
When looking at new facility options, the engineers considered two locations: the current location and Hudson Family Park.
HWC and the feasibility committee were concerned about the flood plain and whether the current location was too low. After evaluating the site, it appears the current pool is mostly above the flood plain.
Because there is already a parking lot, which can easily be expanded, and present utilities, the current location is a better option, Whitesell said.
“The flood plain is an issue and is going to put a little bit of a premium on (the current) site,” he added, “but it’s going to be a lot less of a cost than dealing with utilities and parking at any other location.”
HWC, hired by Portland City Council to evaluate the current pool and create plans and cost estimates for a new pool, also looked into the possibility of renovating the current pool. But Whitesell said such a project would require a significant financial investment in a structure that is already more than 50 years old.
The engineering firm found the current bathhouse and maintenance building need to be replaced, the deteriorated pool gutter is the primary source of water loss and needs to be replaced, and the full deck and main drain should also be replaced. Replacing the pool liner is also recommended.
Those improvements, though, would not change the functionality of the pool and would cost between $1.3 and $2.1 million, Whitesell said.
“It’s done very well for you, but it’s just at a point where investing further is going to take a lot,” he said.
Ashman said it doesn’t make sense to invest $2 million to fix the current pool when spending $3 million would buy a new pool.
“Fixing it doesn’t make any sense if it’s going to cost $2 million to fix it, and then we’ve got kind of what we have,” he said.
And regardless of whether or not the city chooses to build a new pool or renovate the current facility, the pool will continue to require maintenance over time.
“There is no such thing as a low maintenance pool, a pool is a high maintenance, intense investment,” said Whitesell. “You will certainly spend a lot less on a new facility because we’re able to put in more efficient systems, more efficient equipment, and you’re not going to have to come back in the next 10 years and make a major investment in a liner or anything.”
A variety of other pool-related topics were discussed Tuesday, with members of the public expressing concern that the planned competition pool is 25 yards as compared to the current 25 meters. Whitesell and his team said stretching the pool to meet that measurement wouldn’t add much construction cost.
Brewster asked how much maintaining a new pool would cost and if the park board budget for pool maintenance would need to increase.
“Are you looking, maybe, to increase that line item,” he asked.
The engineering company wasn’t able to answer Tuesday night if maintaining a new pool would cost more than $20,000 a year, which is what the park board currently budgets.
The pool will need at least eight lifeguards working at all times, said Geesaman, adding that it is important to keep in mind that costs to operate a pool may increase.
Whitesell said in some ways the new pool would cost less to maintain because new equipment would be more efficient.
“It changes, and that’s what we have to be very careful of,” he said.
Ashman said it’s important to remember the current pool costs a lot to maintain each year because it leaks thousands of gallons of water per day and the chemicals need to be replaced constantly.
Board member Kristi Betts noted that pool attendance might increase with a new facility. Residents in attendance also wondered if fees to use the pool would increase.
Ashman said committees working on the pool project have considered that question, but at this point, the park board doesn’t know if a new pool will actually happen. Their focus is on the facility and how to pay for the project.
“We haven’t decided on this pool,” he said. “It’s something we haven’t gotten our teeth into yet.”
In other business Tuesday, the park board, absent Holly Tonak:
•Voted to purchase a new lawn mower for the park department. The new lawn mower costs $9,300, but after trading in another city lawn mower, the cost will be $5,300.
•Learned from park superintendent Ryan Myers that the bathrooms at Haynes Park are being remodeled. They’ll be closed for about three weeks.
•Asked for letters of interest from people interested in being the pool manager. The park board doesn’t know yet if the pool will open this year, but plans to make that decision soon.
•Gave a letter of support to the Jay County Trails Club for a grant the organization is applying for to help pay for a new trail.