Pool design is a priority | PostIndependent.com

Pool design is a priority

Ryan Hoffman
Rifle City Council is prioritizing conceptual plans for a new aquatics facility where the more than 50-year-old Art Dague Pool currently sits.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

Rifle city leaders see an opportunity where the more-than-50-year-old Art Dague Pool sits, which is why City Council is making a conceptual design for a new facility at the site a high priority in 2017.

The city is allocating $800,000 in the 2017 budget for conceptual plans and final designs for a new aquatics center. However, the amount that will actually be spent — with money from the city’s capital fund — will likely be much less.

That is because City Council wants the scope of the project to stay within the cost range of already available funding sources. Unlike past recreation-related proposals, councilors stated during a work session last week that they have no desire to put a tax question before voters to pay for a new facility.

The aging pool has been an ongoing topic of discussion, especially in the past year when a community survey pointed to the pool as a deficiency within the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. As Tom Whitmore, parks and recreation director, explained, the pool was built around 1962 and is at the end of its useful life.

Recognizing that fact, the parks and recreation department presented council with several design options for the facility earlier this year during a strategic planning session. In general, most members of council agreed that razing the existing structures and coming up with a new facility was the best approach, Whitmore recounted at the work session last week.

Since then, rough plans for the site have gone through several iterations, with one including indoor gym space — the lack of which has been a continued complaint among some residents.

The plan for gym space was responsible for the large amount allocated in the 2017 budget for a conceptual design. The $800,000 figure was reached by taking a percentage of $12 million — a rough cost estimate for a facility that would have included gym space.

However, council previously indicated a desire to see costs contained on any future facility, and gym space drove the cost up substantially, Whitmore explained. Additionally, the finite amount of space would have limited the possibilities in the future, he added.

During the work session, council members affirmed their desire to see a project that can be paid for without asking voters for a new stream of revenue.

There has been a running desire for recreation facilities in the city, but plans have always run into trouble when it comes to the question of funding, Whitmore noted during the work session.

In 2013, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have raised city sales taxes by 0.74 percent to fund a recreation center at Metro Park, which houses the current pool and the city’s action park.

Although there was agreement from councilors about limiting the cost of a new pool facility, those feelings were not based on the 2013 vote, said Mayor Randy Winkler, the only current member of council who was serving on council in 2013.

“There’s no comparison … ” Winkler said of the proposal in 2013 and council’s hopes regarding the aquatics center. “I don’t think this council is thinking about that. They’re just thinking about what’s going on right now. You have to live in the moment, not the past.”

As for funding actual construction of the aquatics center, City Manager Matt Sturgeon noted at the work session that the city is on track to pay off its debt obligation on the parks and recreation building in 2018, essentially freeing up $325,000 annually.

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