The city of St. Clair is starting to dive into obtaining information on constructing some kind of spray park that will replace the community swimming pool as early as next year.
City Administrator Rick Childers is seeking requests for proposals from businesses with experience in building spray parks and will report his findings to the special committee charged by Mayor Ron Blum with looking into the matter.
The committee, led by Ward 2 Alderman Barb McGlenn and Childers, has met twice to start brainstorming on the possible water facility that probably will be located in Evergreen Park near where the current pool sits.
St. Clair’s pool, scheduled to open on Saturday, probably is in its last year of operation. City officials have said it loses water, is crumbling and would be in need of serious and expensive repairs to keep it operating in the future.
“The pool was built in 1964,” Childers said at the most recent committee meeting late last month. “It leaks and it will have some kind of structural collapse at some point.”
With a smile, Childers added that “the deep end could go off the deep end sometime in the future.”
The city is hoping the pool can stay open through mid-August when it normally would close before the start of the school year. In the meantime, spray park committee members are trying to make some decision as to how to proceed with providing the different kind of aquatic relief from summer heat for citizens.
At this point, no decisions have been made other than to seek the RFQs. A request for proposal usually is issued at an early stage in a procurement process where an invitation is presented for suppliers to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service. Once the committee has some of them on hand, members can begin to shape the proposed spray park and try to determine a budget, schedule and what it may include.
Childers and committee members agreed that the best-case scenario would be for construction on the new park to begin shortly after the pool closes in August and be ready to open near Memorial Day next year.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” Childers said. “We need professional input to help make some decisions.”
The spray park would be more like a spray pad that would contain some in-ground sprinklers as well as above ground fountains. It could be operational on a timer or motion activated. The number of sprinklers and fountains would be determined by price, but committee members are hopeful that the pad would be at least as large as the current pool area. New restrooms would be built as part of the project.
“There are so many things to look at and so many options,” committee member Letha Childers said.
Preliminary cost totals kicked around by the committee are in the $200,000 to $400,000 range. Funding sources could vary, but officials said they would not want the facility to strap the city or its citizens.
“Our goal most likely will be to do this in-house without adding a burden to taxpayers,” Mayor Ron Blum said.
Childers has stated on several occasions that pools annually cost money to operate. Because of its problems, St. Clair’s costs the city more than usual.
The committee, which consists of some park board members and other interested community residents, will work toward establishing a size and budget and a site location in future meetings.
Committee members have said they believe there should be no fee to use the facility, but concessions could be sold.
“From everything I’ve read, spray parks are the future for smaller communities like ours,” McGlenn said. “We need to make sure we have something after our pool closes. I think this is a good option.”
The next committee meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12, following a special 6 p.m. park board meeting to finalize preparations for the June 22-23 Freedom Fest.