Pool Fun

The Agnes Nolting Aquatic Complex costs the city of Washington $100,000 to $120,000 a year, according to Washington Parks Director Darren Dunkle.

That’s why Washington Parks and Recreation Board members Thursday dove into the possibility of closing the pool.

Dunkle said other municipalities have closed pools due to dwindling attendance and high maintenance costs. He said staffing, facility aging and overall cost have become somewhat problematic.

“From an operational standpoint, this year we had more use than most years because of the temperatures,” Dunkle said. “But our operations basically run two months out of the year, and we’re spending a lot of money for two months out of the year.”

Several board members agreed that the money saved from closing the pool could be used to fund other park projects, such as renovations and needed repairs.

“This committee has discussed it officially and unofficially, some people have said ‘Close it down’ and some people have said ‘No, we can’t do that,’ ” Dunkle said. “I’m throwing it out on the table to see if there are any different views about the center.”

The board discussed the construction of a splash park, like in St. Clair and Union. Dunkle said with a splash park, there would be no need for staffing and that through a filtration system, chemical cleansing of the water wouldn’t be needed.

He added that attendance at the pool has dwindled and staffing has become more difficult, partly because of other options in the city.

“Unless our day camp is there — (attendance) is pretty sparse,” Dunkle said. 

Park Board 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.”

The municipal swimming pool, built in 1935-36, was opened to the public July 4, 1936, and officially dedicated July 19, 1936.

Improvement Projects

What the city should do with the aquatic center was discussed during the board’s overview on possible capital improvements. 

The board, and other city branches, will submit project ideas to a committee, who will then make a decision on which projects should be funded by the tax. 

The board agreed it would further discuss the projects that were high on the list at its next meeting. Dunkle said the list was preliminary but asked for the board to come back with ideas and feedback.

The main project on the “needs” list is a new Parks and Recreation administration and business building that is estimated to cost roughly $2 million, or renovations to the current building.

Dunkle said the need for a new building has lingered for some time.

Possible projects that are also on the “needs” list were the second phase of the Optimist Skate Park, renovations to the auditorium, various roofing, pavilion and restroom projects throughout Washington and the Ronsick Irrigation Replacement. 

The needs list was estimated to cost roughly $3.7 million, in addition to a  wants list estimated at roughly the same. It included several restoration, playground, trail and lighting projects. 

Dunkle said this capital improvements tax would be a chance to make the improvements that are typically not in the budget. 

“It’s time we get the maintenance we need, whether it be a building or every park in town. Every park in town needs improvements,” said  city councilman and board liaison Jeff Patke.

The board will meet again in early November to further discuss the needs and wants lists to make a decision on what the best projects would be going forward.