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Paynesville Press - November 6, 2002

Pool committee starts study

By Michael Jacobson

A joint city-township pool committee continues to meet, has hired a consultant to perform a feasibility study, and is looking to get public input on a community swimming pool.

The committee - comprised of five city members and five township members - has hired USAquatics to complete the feasibility study. This study - which will cost $5,800 (to be shared by the city and the township) - will determine community support, identify potential sites and select an ideal site, determine costs (both construction and operating), and examine desired features for the facility.

The survey will also contain tax information on what it will take to build a pool. "Most people that's what it comes down to," said city administrator Steve Helget. "How much is it going to cost me?"

The committee plans to host a public information meeting - possibly in December or January - to share information with the public and gather input. A survey would follow that meeting.

"The feeling is we need to get public input for this," said Helget. "We need to know how much public support there is for this project." The genesis of this pool effort started over a year ago when Kyle Nehowig and Brad Skoglund, who now are co-chairmen of the committee, approached the city about providing more recreational facilities for youth.

While they also talked about more ball fields, Nehowig thinks a pool is the top priority for the community. "A pool is going to get a lot of people using it, of all ages," he said. "I think people will be surprised how much it will be used." "We need to do more things for youth in our community," agreed Skoglund. "This is a start. I think a pool is necessary." Skoglund has been asked at baseball tournaments where the nearest pool is by teams that want to swim in outdoor pools and watched them travel to other towns to use one.

The committee, on the advice of USAquatics, is concentrating on an outdoor aquatic park, not just a box pool. USAquatics has advised that an indoor pool, which has higher construction and operating costs, only works in communities of less than 15,000 people in a cooperative effort with the school district. (USAquatics has done 19 pool projects in cities with populations less than 3,000 in the five-state region in the past eight years.)

So far, the committee has identified four possible sites: on the south side of the middle school (south of the middle school parking lot, where the ag field is now), north of the high school parking lot between the parking lot and the armory (this was the site identified in the 1990s), and the two city well sites, one north of Highway 55 by the Chladek Addition and the other on the east side of town near the Morningside Addition. "If we could build it on public property," said Helget, "it could certainly save us a nice chunk of money."

The sites will be judged on size (a minimum of four to five acres is needed), cost of developing (including utilities), location and accessibility, and visibility. The committee rated the sites at their last meeting and the two school sites were deemed best.

The school grounds already contain baseball and softball fields and tennis courts, have ample parking, and are visible from Highway 23 and the golf course. "Obviously, this area is filled with (other recreational facilities)," said Helget. "All these facilities would complement each other."

The south site actually got the highest rating, but part of that area will face zoning restrictions for the new airport. The school district has not been approached yet about the possibility of using school land for a pool project.

In addition to the actual pool, the committee has talked about complementary recreational facilities at the facility, including volleyball pits, playground equipment, basketball courts, and even a skateboard park. Not all these would need to be built at once, said Helget. Some could be added later, but they would hopefully increase usage at the pool. The more things that attract kids and families to the facility, and keep them there for longer periods of time, the better, said Helget.

The more things you can use to make the facility attractive, the better it will run, said Nehowig. At the same time, you've got to be looking at keeping the cost down, he added.

Other features designed to keep visitors at the pool longer are concessions (also a valuable revenue source), shade, green space, picnic areas, and a patio for watching the action in the pool.

Features of the actual pool could include zero-depth entry, slides, diving areas, a splashing pool, etc.

The community pool would be used for swimming lessons, which would be available in town for the first time in years and would also hopefully help hire lifeguards by providing them more hours.

Helget wants to apply for an outdoor recreation grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to help pay for part of the pool project. To be eligible for this grant, the community would have to build an outdoor pool.

Anyone with questions, comments, or suggestions should contact a representative of the pool committee. Pool committee members are Urban Fuchs, Greg Hansen, Mary Janotta, Lonnie Lien, Ron Mergen, Laurey Malling, Nehowig, Cliff Rossler, Bob See, and Skoglund. Township clerk Don Wiese and Helget both serve as non-voting members of the committee.

The committee meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall.

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