As Barth Hague considered the future of the public pool, he thought back to his days working at Wichita State — and each time the president of the school would mention football.
Hague called that the “F” word. Every time it came up, a frenzy would ensue. The president at the time developed a pat answer for the future of football at Wichita State.
“He would say 'not no, but not now,'” Hague said. “That is where I am right now in our conversation with the pool. ...Where I am out right now is I would be in favor of spending the money necessary To replace sand filters and repairs to have a safe, reliable pool, and get that work done so we can open next summer. Meanwhile I think we need to do more work. … I am not closing the door on it. I simply feel that right now we are not ready to commit to a larger project.”
But what “more work” means is unclear to him — and to other members of the commission. In front of the commission for the past several weeks was a proposal for $1.7 million in renovations and improvements to the city pool.
Those improvements included adding new features including a “wet bubble” pool that would be one of only three in the state. Also on the list were mechanical repairs, renovations to the bath house, renovations to the baby pool and others.
City staff has discussed having those renovations paid for by the Public Building Commission — and that was just one of several wrenches thrown in the gears of the project. The PBC exists under an inter localagreement between the city, rec commission and school district. Each of the three entities dedicates .08 mills to fund the PBC.
The interlocal agreement for the PBC will expire in about two years. For the PBC to continue, all three organizations must approve resigning an interlocal agreement. City staff has met with the rec commission and the board of education.
Aug. 28 the city voted in favor of continuing the agreement for 20 years. They are the first of the three entities to take action on that agreement.
“I am sensing that we are not going to get this pulled together, with the interlocal agreement, … It is a disappointment,” Valentine said. “I wanted the pool to be there. My regrets, I mean that sincerely.”
The commission did not take any formal action on the pool, nor a separate project to renovate and add baseball and softball fields to Centennial Park for an estimated $900,000. The desire by the city staff was to pursue both projects at the same time under one bond issue.
The commission, however, chose to let the pool slide — for now.
Hague advocated for the city to begin a needs assessment, asking for the public to guide that assessment through survey work of the broader community.
“We need to be strategic in how we grow and develop ammenities in our community,” Hague said.
It is unclear how soon that could happen, however commissioner Glen Davis said during the meeting he wants it to start “soon.”
Valentine said she does not want the commission to let the issue of the pool sit — and that there be a commitment to continue work on the issue. The commission also asked city staff to keep moving forward with the plans for Centennial Park with the hopes that a project there could be completed in about two years.
In other business the commission:
• Approved waiving of fees for a Parents as Teachers “Touch a Truck” night at Centennial Park.
• Approved a request to close portions of Fifth Street Sept. 29 for the Red Hot Chili Pepper 5K.
• Approved a special event request for the United Way Chili Cook Off Sept. 29.
• Approved a temporary alcohol permit for the United Way Chili Cook Off.
• Approved a tax abatement for Future Foam. The commission approved a 10 year, 100 percent abatement for a new addition to the manufacturing facility. Estimated cost to the city is $445,000 over 10 years.
• Approved a new automatic mutual aid agreement for the fire departments serving in Harvey County.
• Approved a reassessment and re-levying of special assessments in Autumn Glen Fourth Addition and Summer Crossing Addition.
• Approved final cost statements for completed projects in the Fieldstone Addition.
• Approved a grant application to purchase new Tasers for the Newton Police Department.