Men Wave at Pool

Washington’s city pool will be open next summer.

“We’re not looking to close down the pool any time soon,” Parks and Recreation Director Darren Dunkle told The Missourian Tuesday.

Last week at its meeting, the park board floated the idea of closing the Agnes Nolting Aquatics Complex.

Dunkle said his office had fielded numerous calls asking about the status of the pool. He said the plan is to keep it open.

He stressed that a closure is just one possible outcome for the future of the pool.

For the present, he said the city pool will be open for business next summer.

The issue of closing the pool came up during the parks board’s discussion on potential capital improvement projects. Dunkle said the city has reached a point where the aging stainless steel pool’s future is murky.

“If you own a home you know that certain things have a life span of so many years,” he said. “The roof has only so many years before it needs to be replaced, same with the HVAC. It’s the same way with the pool. We are at that point where we need to make some decisions with the ongoing operations of the pool.”

Aging Pool

The pool originally opened in 1936 and underwent major renovations in the 1970s.

Dunkle said a pool typically has a 20- to 25-year life span and Washington’s has reached that point.

In recent years, the pool has sprung several leaks. To fix the issues, the pool deck has had to be cracked and repaired.

Additionally the pipes, pumps and filters that run the pool are breaking down in their advanced age.

The pool also has some Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues that need to be addressed, Dunkle said. With all of those issues, he said it’s time for the city to consider options for the pool.

To renovate or build a new pool would be a costly endeavour, said Dunkle, who personally doesn’t favor the renovation route because it’s just delaying the inevitable.

“Do you want to continue putting a Band-Aid on it, or do you want to come in and build something new that’s going to last another 20-25 years?” he said.

A new pool would take at least two years to build, factoring in time spent for engineering and construction. The price tag also would vary.

A simple pool on the low end could cost $1 million, Dunkle said.

A pool with every possible feature imaginable could carry a price tag north of $10 million.

Dunkle said the public would determine what could be built. He said he’s heard prior requests for a 25-meter competition pool, a splash playground and other features found at other pools in the area.

Another factor to consider with cost is location, Dunkle said. Demolition of the old pool would cost money, he said, but so would moving to a new location.

Dunkle said some residents have suggested relocating the pool in a more central area or closer to the southeastern portion of the town where growth is happening.

The high price tag, along with the high operations costs, have caused some members of the park board to consider a third alternative and just stop running a pool. Dunkle said other municipalities have done it because pools lose money.

The pool complex costs the city of Washington $100,000 to $120,000 a year, Dunkle said.

There are other issues with operations, he added, including a lifeguard shortage and declining attendance.

More than two years ago the board toyed with the idea of closing the pool temporarily. The plan was to close the pool for a short period of time and use the savings to fund other parks projects.

The board ultimately decided against pursing that route.

At last Thursday’s parks board meeting, member Mike Huber said while the pool is a great addition to the city, the cost may not justify the means or demand.

“I agree it’s a nice thing to have in the city, but not if it’s costing $100,000 a year,” Huber said. “If we build a new aquatics facility we’re still going to be subsidizing it to a degree. Pools, in general, don’t make money.”

Dunkle said the park board took no action on the issue and the pool operations will continue as normal until the city council decides otherwise.

The city council did not address the issue at Monday’s administration/operations committee meeting.