City, rec dive back into pool discussions

Chad Frey
cfrey@thekansan.com
A discussion was held Tuesday about delayed maintenance on the Newton municipal pool.

For about two years, the Newton Recreation Commission and Newton City Commission talked about the future of the municipal pool, before the conversation came to an end last year.

During that two-year conversation, maintenance issues were at the forefront — corroded plumbing and filters nearing the end of their useful life.

“We welded the sand filter for its last leg. We have problems with it again this year,“ said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for the city of Newton. ” ... You can postpone this, but the pool does not have that option. We are (at) the point of jumping off the cliff here.“

The pool is owned by the city of Newton, is operated by the Newton Recreation Commission. The last time there were updates or renovations to the facility, according to the NRC, was 1993.

Discussion of renovation or replacement began in 2017, when Newton Recreation Commission superintendent Brian Bascue expressed concerns that equipment failures could lead to the closure of the pool.

The conversation began again Tuesday during a joint meeting of the two commissions at the Meridian Center.

“We need to know what direction you want to go,” Loomis said.

How work could be paid for was discussed on Tuesday, with the option of using the Public Building Commission as the funding arm to pay bond debt if the project moves forward. Three entities — the city, the recreation commission and USD 373 fund the public building commission. Currently, each entity contributes 0.8 mills — with the recreation commission covering the levy of the school district — to fund the PBC.

The city has approved increasing the mill levy for the PBC to a full mill. The recreation commission and school district have not approved such a move. Depending on what the city decides, the city would have to make payments on a bond outside of the PBC for three to four years, as the PBC cannot take on new payments at this time.

“At this point, we have spent money on other things that I do not believe are as important. I am in favor of moving forward with something,” said commissioner Kathy Valentine. “... I would like to see us commit to move forward.”

Though no formal action was taken the city commission directed staff to move forward with investigating a new pool — with a six-lane lap pool, lazy river, a zero-entry space and diving boards — for an estimated cost of $2.1 million.

The ballfield project for Centennial Park, which has been tied to the pool project, is estimated to cost about $1 million.

The commissions started conversations looking at the costs of projects proposed in 2018, though the costs are expected to have increased by about 5%.

Two companies took a look at the current facility and offered to make repairs and upgrades to the facility. Repairs by both companies include equipment, pool house renovations and changes to the baby/wading pool.

Corrosion on piping and existing filter tanks is among the issues identified — with an estimated price tag of at least $279,500 to address. The pool deck, meaning the concrete surface around the pool, was also identified by both companies as in need of repair. That repair is estimated at about $200,000.

Replacing the current water slide, costing as much as $150,000, was also identified by both companies. The current slide is a site of corrosion on the structural steel and tower surfaces. Renovations to the pool house, which would entail new plumbing, lighting, floor covering, painting and other changes could cost upwards of $283,500.

An additional $7,000 per structure for shades/awnings was listed as well.

For the baby/wading pool, one company floated a proposal to remove the current facility and replace it with a spray pad. The other company proposes putting in a new coating, plumbing, deck and fencing around the current pool at a cost of $168,000.