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Paynesville Press - June 19, 2002

City to approach township about pool

By Bonnie Jo Hanson and Michael Jacobson

The city of Paynesville plans to ask Paynesville Township to work together on a community swimming pool project.

The city council decided to approach the township board about sharing the consultant's initial fee for community pool designs and about forming a community-based pool committee at its council meeting on Wednesday, June 12.

Under a proposal from mayor Jeff Thompson, the city and township would split the cost for the initial phase planning for an aquatic park and have equal representation on a pool committee.

For a fee of $5,800, the consultants at USAquatics ­ a firm that specializes in aquatic consulting and design ­ would do the initial design. USAquatics gave a no-charge presentation about pool options and designs at the end of May. Using another firm ­ possibly the engineering firm who designed the plan during the last pool effort in the mid-1990s ­ was raised at the council meeting last week. Either way, the initial design should cost around $5,800.

Under the council's plan, the city and the township would each appoint four people to form a pool committee. These eight appointees could then appoint three more people people to the committee. This committee's initial responsibility would be to select a consultant, develop and market a plan, and develop an agreement for the financing of the construction and the operation of a community pool.

One need for this pool effort to succeed, council members agreed, was to inform the public and get public support. At the public meeting in May, only a couple of members of the general public attended.

Council member Harlan Beek was concerned about support for the project, since the township this spring indicated that only 50 percent of township residents supported a pool project. USAquatics recommended 60 percent support for a pool project.

Thompson and council member Dennis Zimmerman thought the project had that kind of support. Zimmerman thought 50 percent was actually very strong support in the township, considering that the poll was given to people who had no information about the project. And Thompson thought support within the city would be higher than in the township.

Beek also wondered why a plain rectangular pool could not be considered. USAquatics recommended an outdoor aquatic park.

Zimmerman noted that the consultants' recommendations reflected the conclusions of the pool committee in the early 1990s: a good location with exposure is needed, possibly with access to an existing parking lot; an outdoor, aquatic park is the most feasible financially; and that amenities are necessary to attract use.

Zimmerman noted that the pool would need to be entertaining enough to get kids to drag their parents back. "The maintenance and operating costs for a plain, old pool will come out of our pocket because you won't get enough usage to make it work," he said.

In other words, a plain pool would be cheaper to build but more expensive to operate. An indoor pool, on the other hand, would be more expensive to build and to maintain.

The consultants emphasized in May that a well-planned aquatic park, while never earning enough to repay the initial capital investment, should be able to pay its own operating expenses.

"I've had many comments that it's about time we built one," said council member Jean Soine. "If towns smaller than us can have one, we should, too."

Thompson will present the city's pool proposal to the township board, possibly at their next meeting on Monday, June 24, at 8 p.m..

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