SIDNEY — The planned improvements for Sidney Water Park (SWP) were reconsidered during Monday’s Sidney City Council workshop meeting.
Duane Gaier, parks and recreation director, recommended holding off on the planned 2020 Sidney Water Park improvements, as the city struggles to staff enough lifeguards at the public pool. Gaier told council he could not justify spending the budgeted money if the pool is potentially unable to open next year due to the city’s ongoing lifeguard shortage.
This season SWP only has a total of 14 guards, or 16 total, including the manager and assistant manager, who could be up on the stands if necessary. Typically the pool employees 20-25 lifeguards, with 16 guards up on the stands daily. Due to the reduced number of guards this year, the city decided to close the baby pool, cancel the free swimming classes, and honor only the pool parties reserved by May 6. Gaier said the zero entry level at the intermediate pool still allows a location for younger children to play.
The city’s lack of guards, Gaier said, is not simply a local problem, but is a nationwide issue.
Since January, members of city council have been in the process of determining a rehabilitation plan for SWP. Typically, Gaier said, communities replace their pool after 20 years. It has been 30 years for Sidney’s pool, he said.
Gaier presented council with five options in January to rehabilitate the large pool, in which $390,000 was budgeted for 2020. He informed council after estimates came in last year, the actual cost was updated to be $447,268. These improvements, which he reviewed again Monday, include the following:
• New concrete deck;
• New filtration, including required plumbing and valves;
• Chemical feeders;
• Auto fill controller;
• ADA handicap lift;
• New 1-meter diving stands;
• Remove 3-meter board and replace with a drop slide.
Other options presented including replacing the large pool with a large splash pad and replacing decks and filter, chemical monitoring and chemical feed upgraded; eliminating half of the large pool body with a splash pad and necessary accompanying equipment; replacing baby pool with a splash pad and repairing the large pool and decks; and minimal necessary repairs to large pool, decks and replacing new boards and a slide. Some options would reduce the amount of life guards needed from 16 to 14 or down to 10, other options kept the number of guards at 16. The options’ costs ranged from $270,000 to $1.6 million.
Gaier said after the Recreation Board meeting earlier Monday, they agreed to recommend considering a sixth option. The sixth option includes holding off on major repairs, but to patch up and replace equipment as needed for the next two or three years until city staff can resolve the lifeguard issue. The plan also recommends for city council to consider adding a splash pad.
Council member Ed Hamaker, who sits on the Recreation Board as a liason to city council, was the first to speak up and agree with Gaier’s recommendation to hold off on spending the money. Hamaker reminded council the improvement costs will likely continue to rise the longer they wait.
Mayor Mike Barhorst and Gaier said the increase in cost was probably due to the rising cost of concrete, when council member Steve Wagner ask why. Gaier also said the deck replacement is also very costly because it is labor intensive to remove the old concrete.
Gaier said they have been repairing uneven areas of the concrete deck as needed. He noted this is necessary because guests at the pool could trip easily or cut their feet on the uneven surfaces.
Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan asked if there was another option to concrete for the deck. Gaier said a rubber surface was an option, but is much more expensive. He pledged to research other options.
Wagner also asked if grant funds were available to help fund the project. Gaier said grants are out there, but require local matched funds before a grant could be written and those funds are not available until the 2020 budget.
Council member Darryl Thurber expressed concern about considering closing the pool or adding a splash pad as a replacement. Thurber suggested Sidney should consider training their own lifeguards.
Gaier stressed he is not recommending closing the pool and does not want to close the pool. Gaier told council he is trying to be “realistic” in the event city staff is unable to hire enough guards in future seasons to be able to open the pool. Gaier said although currently SWP is not in the position to train their own guards, perhaps it would be something to consider at some point. Gaier said increasing the pay may also be for future consideration.
Gaier confirmed there would be no danger, with chemicals for example, by “kicking the can down the road,” as Barhorst asked. Gaier said as equipment breaks, it would need replaced. He said chlorine is added in tablet form, so guests would not be in any danger if parts broke. Some brief discussion also ensued about adding a splash pad and questioning where it should go.
In the end, council agreed to hold off on major rehabilitation to the large swimming pool, conduct repairs as needed, and explore adding a splash pad.
In other business, City Manger Mark Cundiff reviewed the upcoming Zoning Board agenda for Monday, June 17, 2019, and reviewed the prospective city council agenda items for the next 30 days. He said there will not be a Planning Commission meeting this month, as nothing is on the agenda.