After weeks of broaching the topic, it was time for the Washington Sales Tax Committee to address what City Administrator Darren Lamb referred to as the elephant in the room.
For an hour Tuesday afternoon, the committee dove into the topic of a new aquatics complex. The complex has been the big-ticket item on the city’s list of potential capital improvement projects.
A new aquatics complex could cost an estimated $5 million. City staff has estimated proposed projects would cost $19,819,600. If voters extend the half-cent sales tax in April, the city projects would receive between $12.6 and $15.1 million.
Throughout the course of the committee’s weekly meetings, the large price tag of the pool has come up several times, prompting an entire meeting on the topic.
The goal was to review the projected costs, comparing the project to other pools in the area and weigh possible partnerships.
Parks and Recreation Director Darren Dunkle said the current pool is aging. Pipes, valves and pumps are having issues and Dunkle said within three years either a renovation or a replacement needs to take place.
Dunkle prepared a list of recent pool projects in the area. The idea was to show committee members who are pool “shopping” novices what certain facilities cost.
Dunkle showed a range of pools from throughout the state. Some simple pools cost under a million, while a massive complex in Wentzville cost more than $6 million.
He explained new pools cost about $180 per square foot. The current facility has about 10,500 square feet of water and 4,700 feet of decking.
Lamb said the design of the pool wasn’t the committee’s call. The committee’s job is to come up with a price tag of what it would allocate for a new complex.
If the committee moves the project forward and voters approve the sales tax, Lamb said the city would then form a pool committee to figure out just what to build.
Dunkle estimated the demolition of the old complex would cost about $110,500. To construct the new complex, Dunkle pegged the cost at $4,445,000 with $444,500 for architectural and engineering costs. The total price tag for the project would be $5 million.
Jared Beard, executive vice president and chief operating officer with the Gateway Region of the YMCA, attended Tuesday’s meeting to discuss a partnership with the city.
Beard said the YMCA has partnerships with other municipalities where it manages city-owned facilities.
Lamb said there has been some preliminary talks about maybe allotting some money to the YMCA to expand and enhance its current pool and using the rest to build a new city pool. With a maintenance agreement, the YMCA could manage both facilities.
Lamb said there would be a potential to have some sort of arrangement for city residents to have access to a pool 12 months a year.
Becky Cox, with the Four Rivers Area Family YMCA, said there are no short-term plans to build or expand the current pool.
Committee and audience members weighed in several times during the presentations.
Committee member Diane Jones reiterated her previous point that the area needs another indoor pool to benefit the county and all the school swim teams.
Jones also said before moving forward, the city needs to do a study on the pool to ensure the project is done right. She pointed out the leisure pool was built quickly and, seemingly, without a study.
As a result of what she called poor planning, the area is required to have five lifeguards. Facilities shown by Dunkle have two or fewer for similar areas.
There also was some conversation about how much money the facility would make — or rather how much it would lose. Councilman Jeff Patke said the city of Owensville makes money on its facility. Dunkle said some of those figures can be achieved with creative accounting.
For example, Dunkle said some cities don’t count water consumption in the pool’s budget. He said traditionally new complexes experience a boon when they’re new and that fades over time.
Park board member Sparky Stuckenschneider said the facility won’t be a money maker.
“I can’t think of anything in the parks system that operates with a profit,” he said. “It’s going to lose money, no matter what.”
The committee decided it needed to focus on the pool, and other projects, at its next meeting. After presentations, the committee decided it was time to take control of the process and start weighing and ranking projects on its own.
The committee will take a break for the holidays and meet Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, at 1 p.m.