Committee goes public with new pool design

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The new 5,852 square foot steel reinforced, concrete pool vessel would be similar to current footprint and include a zero-depth entry for families with young children. (Image courtesy of Burbach Aquatics)

By Molly Moser

The Wave of the Future will make a splash in Guttenberg this week, as residents will receive literature in the mail about the Guttenberg pool project. Next week, Wave of the Future Campaign Cabinet volunteers will begin visiting their friends and neighbors to answer questions and invite people to help. The neighborhood outreach will include the rural service area as well as Garnavillo.

“Over 40 years ago, community members came up with the bold vision building a swimming pool for Guttenberg families. The funds they raised would ultimately provide more than four decades of lifesaving swimming lessons in our river town for hundreds of children, offer healthy summertime recreation, and be a signature attraction our city has taken pride in. Our pool has served us well but today, it is at the end of its life,” say committee members. “We now embark upon that same journey with a fresh vision for a new Guttenberg Municipal Swimming Pool.”

Fundraising efforts have begun for the $3.5-$4 million pool replacement, which will be built in the same footprint as the current pool, retaining six 25-yard lap lanes and a separate 13-foot diving hopper. Base plans call for a wider, ADA compliant pool deck, a zero-depth entry area for families with young children, a single one-meter diving board, and a new bathhouse. The new energy-efficient bathhouse will include a concession area, a reception counter, male and female locker rooms with private showers, toilets, and ADA compliant fixtures, baby changing stations, and an attached mechanical room. 

If fundraising continues to flourish, a bid alternate will allow for the addition of a large, curvy waterslide visible from Highway 52 and plunge area as well as built-in shade structures to protect pool patrons from harmful rays. 

In June, Public Works Director Dan Walke and Water Operator Dan Pierce compiled a list of faults with the current pool based on the certified pool operator’s manual inspection checklist. “Age is taking a toll on our swimming pool and we, as Certified Pool Operators, would like the pool committee to know the status of many issues going on that will determine the future of what we have,” they wrote in a letter to the Wave of the Future committee.

“Main drain grates are to be bolted securely to the pool bottom. Our grates are currently secure, however, the framework is becoming very close to being un-usable,” said the city employees. “The hydrostat relief valves in the main drain grates need to be replaced, but with the condition of the framework we are afraid to remove them in fear that we will destroy them.” Other serious issues include a permanently plugged, nonfunctional drain in the surge chamber and electrical and plumbing systems in need of replacement.

Their lengthy list also included algae collecting in the pits of the walls and floor of the 44-year-old pool vessel, and many patches and repairs have been made to chipping tile in the children’s pool. “The pool shell is to be finished in a smooth but slip resistant, easily cleaned, and water tight surface material with no cracks in the shell except structural expansion joints,” wrote Pierce and Walke. “Our pool shell is rough, hard to clean and has several cracks other than the expansion joints. The concrete and the expansion joints continue to deteriorate and need extensive patching every year. Ground water does infiltrate the pool when it is empty, so it is safe to say water exits the vessel when it is full.”

It is known that the current pool loses 10,000-12,000 gallons of water per day, which makes it difficult to maintain the correct water level. Underwater lights are no longer operational, eliminating the possibility of night swims and pool parties that function as popular sources of income for the municipal pool.

“The state inspector will dictate if any of the above issues would promote closure of the pool. Many of these major issues could take a turn for the worse and result in closing the pool at any time,” Walke and Pierce concluded. 

A 2014 inventory of needed improvements showed repair costs up to $1.3 million. Repairs would have only addressed known problems with no guarantee the investment would have prevented further issues. Walke and Pierce's letter confirmed that the existing pool vessel does need to be replaced. The new pool, as proposed for construction in 2018 and opening in 2019, has an expected life of 50 years.

Committee members also researched the cost of an indoor pool and found the estimate for construction was over $7 million. Additional challenges would include  year-round operating costs on a limited city budget, finding year-round life guards, and the preference of many patrons for an outdoor pool experience during the summer. 

The financing mix for the council-approved project calls for $300,000-400,000 in in-kind donations such as building materials, stone, concrete, professional services and volunteer labor; $125,000-175,000 from grants procured by a special committee; and a $1 million capital campaign with residents investing in health and safety. Guttenberg residents will also need to vote to approve  up to $2.8 million in bond financing in March of 2018. The $2.8 million is considered within the safe borrowing limit for the City and is considered a ceiling for the public portion of the project. Grants together with cash and in-kind donations will determine the final public bond need. The Wave of the Future committee currently has $170,000 on hand from previous fundraising. 

“All gifts of any size are vital to the success of this ambitious project. There are many ways you can help, and all donors will be recognized,” say organizers, suggesting in-kind donations of labor and materials, a legacy gift in the name of someone special, cash gifts, and gifts of livestock, grain, timber, or appreciated assets such as stocks or bonds. 

Organizers envision the new pool as a place where grandparents, siblings, and friends make memories; a place where people of all abilities can feel safe and comfortable and children learn the skills necessary to safely and responsibly enjoy our neighboring river; and a place where outdoor exercise and health are celebrated by residents of all ages. 

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