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Paynesville Press - April 14, 2004

City, township residents to vote on aquatic park

by Michael Jacobson

On Tuesday, April 20, voters in the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township will cast ballots to decide whether a joint project to build an aquatic park in town will proceed.

Residents will vote to authorize bonding, or borrowing, for the proposed Paynesville Area Aquatic Park, which is estimated to cost about $1.25 million to build.

The facility - which would be located on school property, just north of the student parking lot at the high school and just south of the armory - would include a 6,534 sq. ft. heated pool, divided into several areas, including an area for lap swimming, a shallow area, a diving area, and a plunge area for the water slide. The aquatic park would be built by the city and township but would be run solely by the city.

Aquatic Park Vote on Tuesday
City and township residents will vote on Tuesday, April 20, to authorize bonding to build an aquatic park in Paynesville.

The city would borrow $775,000 and the township would borrow $475,000 to build the aquatic park, which would cost an estimated $1.25 million to build.

City of Paynesville residents will vote at the Paynesville Area Center (1105 Main Street West), while Paynesville Township residents will cast their ballots at the township hall (28780 Koronis Drive). Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20.

Absentee ballots are available at city hall (for city residents) or from township clerk Don Wiese (for township residents).

If the referendums on Tuesday, April 20, both pass, engineering designs could be completed by July, bids let for August, and construction could start this fall. The Paynesville Area Aquatic Park could open by Memorial Day 2005.

According to their pool agreement, both the city council and township board will need to approve the final plans for the aquatic park. If either vote fails, the project would stall, as only part of the financing would be available.

The city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township have agreed to split the cost for the proposed aquatic park on a basis of roughly 62 percent for the city and 38 percent for the township, a ratio based on the respective populations of the city and township. That means the city would bond for $775,000 and the township would bond for $475,000.

These amounts include the costs for bonding, roughly $50,000 for the city and $30,000 for the township, an oversight that was discovered last week. So, by bonding, the city and township would raise about $1.17 million for the project, after subtracting these bonding costs.

map of pool The base bid for the aquatic park is estimated to be $1.23 million, with another $150,000 in alternates, including a second water slide, also to be bid. By including these bonding costs, it means that unless the project bids are extremely low the city may have to pick up additional costs for the project, since the township's share is limited to $475,000.

Ideally, said city administrator Steve Helget, bids would be competitive enough that a second water slide, costing around $90,000, could be added right away. With the bonding costs being subtracted from the amount raised, the city may have to use its reserve funds or may have to wait to add a second water slide or otherwise cuts costs for the project. All estimated increases in property taxes for the bonding issue have not changed due to the error involving the bonding costs.

(Property tax estimates were redone earlier to account for the exclusion of agricultural land and seasonal property. Neither ag land nor seasonal property will be taxed for this bond issue, according to state law. For agricultural homesteads, only the house, garage, and one acre of property would be subject to tax for the pool project. Seasonal property is exempt.)

Tax estimates (based on 15-year bonding) for the city are: $70.42 per year for a $100,000 residential homestead; $88.02 per year for a $125,000 residential homestead; $105.63 per year for a $150,000 residential homestead; $70.42 per year for a $100,000 commercial/industrial property; $352.09 per year for a $500,000 commercial/industrial property; and $633.76 per year for a $900,000 commercial/industrial property.

Tax estimates for the township are: $45.43 per year for a $100,000 residential homestead; $56.79 per year for a $125,000 residential homestead; $68.15 per year for a $150,000 residential homestead; $45.43 per year for a $100,000 commercial/ industrial property; $227.17 per year for a $500,000 commercial/industrial property; and $408.91 per year for a $900,000 commercial/industrial property.

Bonding, like all borrowing, includes interest expense. The city's estimated bond rate averages at 4.45 percent over 15 years, while the township's rate averages at 4.47 percent. Over the 15 years of bonding, the city would actually pay nearly $1.1 million in interest and principal to bond for the aquatic park (on a $775,000 bond) while the township would pay over $675,000.

The location, features, and design of the proposed aquatic park were picked by the pool committee, which would also be charged in finalizing these plans and guiding the project through construction if voters approve the bonding.

The proposed aquatic park would be located on school property next to the high school student parking lot.

The #1 feature of the aquatic park, which will have a pool area of 6,534 sq. ft., is heated water, according to Bill Deneen, an engineer with USAquatics who guided the feasibility study for the proposed Paynesville Area Aquatic Park.

Aquatic Park Timeline
Voters in the city of Paynesville and in Paynesville Township will decide on the aquatic park proposal at a referendum on Tuesday, April 20. Voters are technically approving bonding, or borrowing, for the project. The city intends to borrow $775,000, while the township would bond for $475,000.

If voters in both the city and township approve the project, the schedule would be to complete the engineering designs by July, bid the project in August, start construction in the fall, and continue construction through the winter.

The Paynesville Area Aquatic Park could be ready to open by Memorial Day in 2005.

If either vote fails in April, the project will stall, since only part of the financing would be available.

This feature is easy to overlook but is really important because with heated water the public will be able to use the aquatic park as soon as the weather warms each summer, whereas it takes a month of warm weather to heat lake water, said Deneen. Heated water provides an outdoor aquatic park with an estimated season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, of nearly 100 days, of which 90 or so should have weather suitable for swimming.

Other park features are a flume slide (with at least two turns to keep people interested); a diving well with a drop slide and diving board; a competition-length lap pool (for water aerobics, lap swimming, and swimming lessons); and a zero-depth-entry (beach-style) area with shallow water and play features.

Operating Costs
While the city and township have agreed to split the cost of building the facility, if voters agree, the city alone will run the facility and be responsible for operating and maintenance costs. (The township, in return, will continue to own and operate the Koronis Civic Arena.)

The pool committee proposed an aquatic park because its popularity should allow it to generate more revenue through more return visits and greater concession sales than a basic rectangular pool. (The pool committee also considered an indoor pool but determined that the building and operating costs, several times those of an outdoor aquatic park, were too high to be feasible for Paynesville.)

With heated water, it is possible to have swimming lessons, even lap swimming, in the mornings and then have open swimming in the afternoons and possibly in the evenings, too, depending on staffing and demand.

USAquatics estimated the annual operating costs of the proposed aquatic park - including salaries, supplies, utilities, maintenance, and future improvements - at $66,250. To break even, the aquatic park would need to average 294 patrons per day at an average rate of $1.50 for admissions and $1 for concessions.

The actual hours and fees for the aquatic park have not been set yet. The pool committee would oversee construction and probably would set the initial fees. After that, the Paynesville Area Aquatic Park would likely be governed by the city's park committee and, ultimately, by the city council, said Helget.

The pool committee is considering having daily fees, punch cards (offering multiple visits at a reduced rate), and season passes for families and individuals. While the passes would likely average less than $1.50 per day, the daily rates would likely be more.

If the aquatic park did not come close to breaking even, the city could raise its rates to generate more income from the park.

Still, Helget said, the aquatic park may need to be subsidized, but it should need less subsidizing than other pool options - either a plain rectangular pool or an indoor pool.

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