How to pay for possible improvements to the Newton Municipal Pool, and just what those improvements might be, is beginning to come into clearer focus for the city of Newton.
How to pay for it is the clearer of the two questions, though there is still mud in the waters of that issue.
“There might be a possibility of funding those, and it is not another hit against our mill levy, by using what is already dedicated mill levy funds by the city, the school district and recreation commission,” said City Manager Bob Myers. “They each have already pledged .8 mills to our Newton Public Building Commission.”
The PBC funds have been used to cover bond payments for renovations to Fischer Field and other facilities made about 16 years ago. The PBC funds replacement of the artificial turf at Fischer Field, and has also funded other projects like a new restroom, press box and concession stand at Centennial Park.
The original bonds will retire in 2024.
“The question is if all three entities are willing to continue that interlocal agreement and pledge of existing mill levies to continue to replace the turf at Fischer Field and to make additional improvements to our recreation and athletic facilities which could include the municipal pool and ball diamond improvements at Athletic Park.”
Myers said discussions with the school district leadership and the Newton Recreation Commission suggest that those entities will want to continue the agreements and keep the PBC moving forward.
“We do not know for sure,” Myers said. “We are talking about if we need a joint meeting of the three entities or if a simple presentation to the Board of Education will be sufficient.”
What renovations are needed will begin to come into sharper focus soon, as the city performed a public survey on pool renovations. The city has stopped taking responses to that survey and is beginning to tabulate results.
“It looks like we have had a large number of responses, about 1,000 or so,” Myers said. “That was pretty good and we are anxious to see how that shakes out.”
The survey was distributed on paper, social media and at the pool. The survey also appeared in the Newton Kansan.
Preliminary discussions of improvements total about $1.5 million — including some work, like new filtration systems and plumbing, that is needed immediately for the pool to continue to operate. Other options viewed by the commission are a “wet bubble pool” that would be only one of three in the state, a climbing wall, new slides and other amenities.
Myers and city staff have made inquiry of the Greater Wichita Area YMCA, which operates a YMCA in Newton, about future plans of that organization to possibly build an outdoor pool or aquatics facility.
While those conversations are not complete, Myers said it is not part of the YMCA plans at this time.
“The short answer to that is they have no plans,” Myers said.
That agrees with reporting by The Newton Kansan in November, when YMCA representatives told The Kansan there were no plans for an outdoor pool at the Newton YMCA location.
“There is nothing in the immediate future for Newton,” Shelly Conrady, vice president of marketing and communications for the Greater Wichita YMCA, told The Kansan following an inquiry in November. “With that said, we are always looking at ways we can better be a part of a community.”
The Greater Wichita YMCA, which operates the Newton YMCA, operates four outdoor pools. The organization maintains nine locations. At each of the four outdoor pools currently operated, YMCA members have access. Non-members pay the daily drop-in rate for access to outdoor pool facilities.