Pool to undergo ’design-build’ process

Chad Frey
The Newton City Commission on July 7 directed staff to move forward with investigating a new pool facility worth an estimated $2.1 million.

How the city approaches the construction of a new pool facility will be a little different from other projects — and just how different started to come into focus this week.

Though no formal action was taken, the city commission directed staff July 7 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 next step in that process has arrived — staff discussed with the city commission this week moving forward with a design/build process for the proposed new pool.

“Typically we do not do a lot of design/build process. Typcially we go through a competitive bid process,” said Suzanne Loomis, director of Public Works for the City of Newton. “In this instance, we would ask for proposals from a team that would do a design/build project so it can move quickly and get done at a swifter pace, because it is time sensitive.”

According to Brian Bascue, superintendent of the Newton Recreation Commission, if all goes well, the timeline is to try and be under construction by the end of October and opening the new facility Memorial Day weekend 2021.

“This is pretty exciting. We have been working on this for three years and it is exciting to get some excitement behind it,” Bascue said.

There is a lot of water to cross — design, budgeting and creating a funding mechanism are all issues to wade through.

In a design-build model, the design-build team works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. Under a competitive bid process, one company would bid for the opportunity to create a design and another would bid for the construction.

City staff is preparing a request for proposals for the design and construction of a new pool. That RFP will be presented to the city commission for approval before it is mailed to would-be design-build firms.

“I would want to be thoughtful of the future, too, so that we don’t lock ourselves into something that cannot be expanded on,“ Commissioner Rod Kreie said.

Staff is also working on an RFP for new baseball/softball fields at Centennial Park — a project that has been paired with the poll project.

Both projects will also be reviewed by the Newton Recreation Commission.

“We want to try and get things updated,” Bascue said. “What we are wanting looking to see is water features and new waterslide.”

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

The Centennial Park project is expected to cost about $1 million.

The city is also working on finding a funding mechanism for both of the projects — with an eye on the Public Building Commission.

Doing that would put Newton Unified School District 373 squarely at the table for the project — the school district is one of three entities funding the public building commission.

“Once we have the results of the RFP back in, our goal would be to set a formal meeting with the school district to go over all the details,“ said city manager Kelly McElroy. ”We have a message in to meet with the new superintendent asking to meet and go over the details. He is new to the community. We want to talk about the PBC, what that partnership has looked like in the past and where we are at with that. ... We are trying to be cognizant of the load that is on their very full plate dealing with state and instruction.“

The Public Building Commission was created in 2004 to fund improvements and ongoing turf replacements to Fischer Field in Athletic Park. It has funded improvements to nearly every park facility in the city.

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.

For the pool and ball field project, it may be required for the recreation commission and City of Newton to make several bond payments on their own before the PBC could take on those payments

“We have talked with our financial adviser on how to deal with that portion of this,” said Donna Pfaff, director of finance for the City of Newton.

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

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