Men Wave at Pool

The Washington Parks Department has plenty of projects prepared if voters extend the city’s half-cent capital improvement sales tax.

Parks and Recreation Director Darren Dunkle unveiled proposals for 12 projects at Tuesday’s capital improvement sales tax committee meeting. The projects combined would cost the city $13,490,000.

The number more than doubles the price tag of the 24 previously proposed projects from other city departments. The total cost of projects presented now stands at $26,075,200.

The tax expires in 2018 and voters will have a chance to vote on an extension in the April municipal election. If voters agree to extend the tax for another eight years, it could generate between $12.6 million and $15.1 million to spend on capital projects.

Pool Projects

The most expensive of the 12 parks projects dealt with the city pool. Dunkle said for an estimated $7.5 million, the city could replace the existing aquatics complex and renovate the city auditorium. The city could then connect or tie in the two facilities.

The existing pool would have to be removed and replaced with something else, he said. It could be a splash playground area, lap/competition pool or a zero-entry pool. The existing bathhouse would be converted into a place for storage, filtration, lifeguards and other staff.

A new bathhouse would have to be built.

Along with the renovations to the pool, Dunkle said the auditorium nearby needs a new HVAC system, an insulated roof, window replacements, lighting upgrades and renovations to the basement. If all the improvements are done, Dunkle said the parks staff could relocate to the facility.

The pool topic has been brought up several times at the committee meetings. Some committee members have expressed concern about the cost of the project since it would take up almost half the proposed tax revenue.

Others have expressed concern about the cost for a facility only open for 10 weeks. Committee member Kurt Voss said there needs to be more discussion about the pool.

Voss said the city needs to be sure the budget can handle operating the facility.

“We need to know what are the costs to keep it up and running to know if that’s something the city budget can handle,” he said. “We do a disservice to taxpayers if we build Taj Mahal and can’t take care of Taj Mahal.”

The committee agreed further review on the pool project was needed.

Other Projects

The 11 other parks projects carried an estimated cost at just a hair under $6 million. The most expensive non-pool was technically not a parks project, but falls under Dunkle’s other job as facilities manager for the city.

The city is looking into some energy-saving projects to be more energy efficient. The projects would take place at city buildings like city hall, the library and police station, and could cost an estimated $1.8 million for upgrades to lighting, HVAC and other work.

The next most expensive project was for a new maintenance facility and a renovation of the current parks headquarters. Dunkle said the parks department has grown and needs more space to store equipment, house staff and operate.

For $1.645 million, Dunkle said the park’s current administration building could be gutted and turned into a dry storage facility. The city also could build a new 10,000-plus-square-foot maintenance building. The next highest price tag was for a Riverfront Park project. Dunkle said for $775,000 the gravel lot could be paved and other improvements could be made to the site.

Dunkle also proposed some playground renovations. He said some are already aging and unsafe while others could be during the life span of the tax. He requested $250,000 for the main park playground, $150,000 for the Krog Park playground and $500,000 for a new Phoenix Park playground.

The Phoenix Park project would remove the existing playground equipment at Optimist and Burger Park because they are lightly used.

Also at Burger Park, Dunkle said the city could do a nature restoration to the site for $105,000. The restoration would involve planting native grass and wildflowers.

For maintenance projects, Dunkle said new roofs for various parks properties could cost $140,000. Pavilion upgrades could carry a price tag of $200,000.

Dunkle said the second phase of the skate park would cost $150,000. That phase would be removing the current surfacing and replacing it with a surface more suitable for skateboarding.

Another proposed project would renovate the tennis courts at Hillermann Park. The courts would be converted into a multipurpose court for pickleball, basketball and tennis for $200,000. The Fair Board requested last week to use that site as the location for a new $1.6 million multipurpose facility.

Also last week the American Legion baseball program proposed turfing the infield at Ronsick Field for $370,000. Dunkle said regardless if that project is approved, the outfield needs a new irrigation system. The irrigation system could cost $50,000.

Finally Dunkle said signs around the parks system need to be updated. He said that work would cost an estimated $25,000.

Next Steps

Tuesday’s presentation by the parks department was the last of the scheduled projects up for review by the committee. City Administrator Darren Lamb said more groups may come forward, but so far no other projects are set to be proposed to the committee.

Since the price tag for all the proposed projects is significantly larger than the project revenue, the committee will have to cut down the list before presenting the idea to voters. Lamb said he hoped the list would be pared down by late December or early January 2018.

For now, the committee will keep meeting on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. in the council chamber. The committee is slated to review public survey responses and begin parsing the list at its next meeting.