O’Connell: Pool construction needs to start soon
By Katie Zerr-
A group of about 50 area residents gathered Thursday, Dec. 13, in the gym of Mobridge-Pollock High School to view plans for the proposed aquatics center and for funding options for the project.
Jay Koch of Helms and Associates of Aberdeen joined Ward I Councilman Tom O’Connell and members of the Mobridge Pool for the presentation. Koch told the group he had been working on this plan for more than a year. He explained why there was an immediate need for a new pool, including the pool mechanics could recycle the water every six hours as required by regulations required by law. The pump and strainers that provide the circulation of the pool water were not adequate. Another of the regulations that were not met were the requirements for non-suction drain covers that prevent serious injury in children.
Koch said the bathhouse did not meet any of the requirements set according to pool occupancy and did not meet the requirements of the American with Disabilities Act.
Koch showed the group a schematic of the proposed pool and grounds, which includes a zero-entry pool. This is a pool that begins at zero feet and gradually slopes from the deck into the water, becoming deeper with each step. As there are no stairs or ladders to navigate, this type of entry assists older people, young children and people with disabilities to enter the pool.
He explained the play features, which include the low and high dives and water slides. There are options for play features on the youth area including water dumping buckets, mushroom shower features and other play equipment options for the smaller children.
There will also be a meet sized, sanctioned lap pool. Options that could be built at a later date would be an additional tube slide with a lazy river float feature and a sheltered picnic area.
He said the operating cost of the new pool area for the city would be less than that of the old pool because of the updated equipment.
“Everything will run better and be more efficient,” Koch told the crowd. “It will be a complete facility with an updated bathhouse and a concession stand.”
During the question and answer period of the presentation, residents asked about funding and the time frame for construction.
Koch spoke about the Winner pool project his firm had been involved with in 2009. The project was similar to the Mobridge concept and took about eight months from start to finish.
One comment from the crowd was that the $2.5 million was a bit expensive for a facility that was used a few months out of the year. It was asked if the city had considered building an indoor pool.
O’Connell told the crowd the indoor pool idea was researched and there were many reasons why the city chose to move forward with the outdoor concept. Aside from the more expensive initial cost of constructing an indoor pool, O’Connell said there would be additional expenses in manning the pool year-round and in indoor maintenance.
“We would need an additional three to four employees a day,” he said. “We have a hard enough time finding lifeguards for the three months the pool is open. We don’t have a college in the area where we could get employees for the indoor pool.”
He told the group in his research in other cities, not one official who told him their pool made the city money.
O’Connell said the city would consider funding the project through a bond issue or opt out that would be augmented with donations and any other funding the committee is and will continue to raise.
“We have people working on raising funds every day,” he said. “We have had pledges come in from the business community and private donors. That money would be used to help ease the cost to residents.”
He said each year the city designates $40,000 to the pool fund (there is currently more than $300,000 in that fund) and that money along with other raised throughout the year would be used as partial payment for the project.
“We would like to have the funding in place as soon as possible to get the project started as soon as we can,” he said. “We don’t want this to become a 10-year project like the library. I understand the library group didn’t want to burden the taxpayers but we can’t be without a pool for that long.”
Kent Mauck told the crowd living next to a large body of water makes it necessary to get the project moving as quickly as possible.
“If that pool is not here there will be a lot of kids on Lake Oahe,” he said. “This could be a safety issue. It only takes one drowning to make the money a non-issue.”
O’Connell introduced the committee that is currently working on fundraising and gathering pledges from area residents. The group includes Heather Overland, Mary Fried, Heather Stoick and Rose Henderson.
“We will never quit trying to raise money for this project,” Henderson said. “We will always be trying to raise more in order to bring that tax liability down.”
Currently the group is mounting a pledge drive and are reaching out to the community with a number of pledge options including spreading a pledge out over a 10-year period. Anyone wishing to donate or make a pledge or who has questions is asked to contact any committee or council member.
It was asked if the pool could be built on a smaller scale, thus reducing the cost.
Kock said if the zero-entry pool was taken out of the plans, a wading pool would need to be added as well as two handicapped entry areas with lifts.
“We looked at a lot of options with basic pools with other options to be added later,” said O’Connell. “In my travels around the state, the comments I heard was that cities that went with the basic pool option made a big mistake, because the other options never got done. They said they wished they hadn’t have it done that way.”
He continued to say that the longer the project is delayed the more it will cost. The option that is on the table now is scaled back from the bigger project that included the second slide, lazy river and picnic area options. At the time that project was considered, it was at a comparable cost to what the scaled down project will cost.
Mobridge resident Lynn Holzwarth addressed the crowd saying he fully supports the project.
“I am a senior on a fixed income and it is tight,” he said. “I will support this project even if it means I will have cut back on some things. I lived up at that pool when I was a kid. We have to think of our children.”
He went on to say that he would like to see both options for the project, the scaled down version and the one with the extra options, put to a vote of the people.
O”Connell said the goal is to raise enough funding throughout the year to make it so there would be little or no tax responsibility to Mobridge residents.
He said there will be another meeting explaining the funding process and that he would ask the city council to consider the bonding issue at the Monday, Dec. 17 meeting.