Newton Municipal Pool renovations underway

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Demolition of the Newton Municipal Pool began this week. Construction crews will build a new pool in its place, with an anticipated completion in July.

A project to renovate the Newton Municipal Pool got underway this week, with demolition work underway. 

A post to social media by the city showing the removal of "the Frog," a small waterslide for children in the "kiddie pool" drew the ire of some. For some in the community, there is an emotional attachment to a pool feature that has been in place for decades. 

City staff and contractors found the frog slide to be unsalvageable. 

"That made a lot of people sad. We got a lot of calls and messages today," said Kelly McElory, city manager. "We understand and we feel the same way. A lot of our children grew up in that baby pool with those froggers. We understand the angst, but there is not a way to salvage him."

However, the frog provides an example of why the pool is being replaced. 

"The frog has seen better days, much better days," said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works. "He has lived his full life. He is concrete, he is heavy and he is corroding because there is metal on the inside. Children did many things on the frog, and the chlorine from the pool did many things to the frog. The frog is ready to move on."

"The frog has croaked," said Mayor Richard Stinnett. "... It is what it is, folks."

This is the first major project to renovate the facility since 1993.

When construction of the new pool is complete, there will be features for small children — even though the baby pool will be gone to make room for a zero-entry area and a lazy river. 

The "baby pool" and frog slide at the Newton Municipal Pool have been removed — and the frog slide will not return as the pool is renovated this year.

"There will be a zero-entry pool that will have amenities for young kids," Loomis said. "One of which will be a slide, like the frog, but it will be a different creature or item. There will several other things for kids to take advantage of in the zero-entry area. I think everyone will be happy when it is all done." 

The city entered into a "Design/Build" contract with the Dondlinger, Lamp Rynearson, Continental Pools team for the project — meaning not all features that will be in place when the project is complete are known. The target date for completion of the project is late July. 

The city did put together a request for proposals that included some necessities for the project including a zero entry, lazy river, slide and new diving boards.

Dondlinger listed out multiple items, some of which were not in the RFP, that the company believed could be placed at the pool under the budget. As pricing for those items becomes available, the list will change based on the total budget.

"As we go we uncover things and discover things," Loomis said. 

The project has been discussed for about three years, with delays forcing the hands of the city in the area of the pool.

The budget for the new pool is about $2.1 million — part of a larger project that includes the reconfiguration of Centennial Park to add baseball/softball fields. 

Negotiations of how to move forward with the municipal pool began in 2017, when the Recreation Commission — which operates the pool on behalf of the city — announced the much of the filtration equipment was reaching the end of its useful life. 

At that time the city chose to spend some funds to make the pool operational, however in 2019 it was announced by city staff that the operations of the pool would have to cease if major investments were not made. It was decided in 2019 to renovate the facility. 

“We have gotten to the point that there is no way we can open the pool next spring,” Loomis said in July 2019. “We would have to invest dollars in some of the things we have delayed ... those are large costs.”

The commission voted to make interest-only payments for three years on bonds issued for the project.

To pay interest only for three years, the NRC and city payments would be about $28,000 per year for the first two years, dropping to $8,500 for the NRC and city with the Public Build Commission paying $40,000. The PBC would take over all payments in year four. It will cost an additional $95,000 in interest to make interest only for the first three years.

In other business Jan. 12, the city commission:

• Announced the hiring of a new community developer. 

• Approved street closures for the Newton Car Show on May 1. 

• Declared January as National Mentoring month on behalf of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harvey County. 

• Declared The Newton Kansan the official city newspaper for the year 2021. 

• Waived building permit fees for a home to be constructed by Habitat for Humanity.  

• Approved a contract with the Chamber of Commerce for annual funding.