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Paynesville Press - May 15,2002

Public support needed for community pool project

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Dreams of a pool in Paynesville may never become reality if the public turnout at an informational meeting to discuss pool plans is any indicator.

The meeting held on Monday, May 28, at the Paynesville Area Center had only a dozen attendees, most of whom were members of the city council, the township board, or the park board.

"We'll never get a pool if we can't get more interest than this," said one attendee.

Addressing the meeting were consultants from USAquatics, a firm that specializes in aquatic consulting and design. The consultants gave a presentation that explained some of the community's options in regards to building a pool.

Building a facility that is financially viable is key to the success of a pool, they stressed. Not only does the community need to consider the initial capital necessary to plan and build the pool, it needs to consider how to pay the operational costs of a pool.

A pool facility will probably never earn enough to pay off the capital involved in building it, but a successful pool should be able to pay its own operational costs, such as maintenance and lifeguards, according to the consultants.

They pointed out that money raised by a concession stand could go a long way in paying for the operational costs of a pool. A concession stand could keep swimmers fed and hydrated and may keep pool-goers there for a longer time.

A well-planned pool could entice guests from a large surrounding area, according to the consultants. Admission fees and concession sales could then help pay the operational costs of the pool.

USAquatics, if chosen, would design, plan, and assist the community with the bidding process. If needed, they would oversee construction by contractors. Their fee would be a percentage (based on the level of support needed) of the project.

USAquatics has designed recreational water facilities in other cities with similar populations. The most notable is the facility in Slayton, which has a multiple use facility with an aquatic park and a lap pool. The cost for the Slayton facility was $1.3 million, which didn't include the cost of a parking lot or a road.

The consultants pointed out that one of the most important parts of planning a pool is to analyze the needs and wants of the community. They stressed the need for community involvement in a project such as this.

Do we want an aquatic park? A pool that meets regulations for competitive use? Indoors or outdoors? These are questions that will have to be answered through public meetings.

The consultants warned that an indoor pool for a community the size of Paynesville would become feasible only if it is a joint venture with the school. Indoor pools usually are not cost effective unless they are in areas with at least 17,000 people. The operational costs of an indoor pool can be high because not only must the pool be maintained but the building must be maintained, too.

Many communities in the same size range as Paynesville have chosen outdoor aquatic parks with zero- depth entries. The consultants said that the aquatic parks are attractive and can be built with age-specific activities to allow fun for everybody. A zero-depth entry (where the water gradually comes up to meet the deck much as a lake would meet a beach) meets the standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act and allows easy access to small children and to the elderly. Waterslides and fountains can entertain older kids and brave adults.

The location of the facility could make or break it financially. The consultants recommend an area that is already used for recreational purposes. Near a school is generally a good location, as families use school facilities all summer for sports. Also, if possible, sharing a parking lot with the school during the summer months school parking lots go unused eliminates the cost of building a parking lot.

The location should be visible, to attract passers-by, and not be in a residential area, they said, since delighted children can be very noisy. The site would need to have water and sewer on site and have access to gas and power.

Size needs vary. The minimum site size is two and one-half acres, and this would only be possible if a parking area is not necessary. Otherwise, they recommend five acres.

One site that had been discussed in prior meetings was the site for the new city well, where the city owns four acres. This site is south of Highway 55 and north of Spruce Street.

A city council member suggested that another possible site is near the high school, between the north parking area and the armory, as parking and other recreational facilities are already there. This was the site discussed in the mid-1990s when the last community pool project was organized but ultimately failed.

The whole pool project could take 18 months from planning to opening the pool, and the consultants recommend a Memorial Day opening. The life expectancy of an aquatic park, using high-quality components, is 30 to 35 years.

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