Officials break ground on new aquatic facility
With the excited giggles and the splashing of water filling the air of Metro park as children and their families enjoyed the last day of the pool, Jessica Wilson, new aquatics manager for the city of Rifle, watched and reflected on what the pool meant to her.
“The pool has always been something I’ve known. It’s heartbreaking that this is leaving, but at the same time I’m really excited,” Wilson said.
For Wilson the pool renovation is very personal.
“My mom used to run the pool, so I grew up here,” Wilson said.
Wilson is the daughter of Linda Stilson, who was the longtime manager of the pool until her unexpected death in 2014.
A lifeguard for many years, Wilson and Austin Rickstrew, recreation coordinator of aquatics, both started in April to help keep the old pool going and to help usher in the new pool and era.
“Just getting to today is a big moment. We’ve been holding the pool together with duct tape,” Rickstrew said.
“It’s ready to be replace. Some of the stuff here is original to when the pool was built.”
Less then 24 hours after the residents gathered to celebrate the memories of five decades of the pool at the Ute Theater, city of Rifle officials broke ground on the new pool last Friday.
“Its so exciting to actually have this happen, it has been such a long process,” Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton said.
“We had a few bumps in the road with some of the initial budget constraints, but to actually see this happening makes it real. Before it was all conceptual in my mind, but the construction equipment and the stakes make it incredibly exciting.”
For Tom Whitmore, Rifle parks and recreation director, breaking ground last week was the culmination of a project that began at the end of 2014, with a community survey going out in 2016.
The City Council decided the pool would become the city’s number one priority after the municipal water plant was built in 2017. Voters approved the renovation and expansion plan in September of the same year.
The project had to be put on hold after the planned renovation came in over budget. The city went back to the drawing board and revised the planned aquatics facility.
“We prioritized our pool components of the survey, and when we realized we couldn’t do some of the work because of the costs, we looked at the priorities,” Whitmore said.
Two major components the city focused on were the leisure pool with the aquatic structure and the lap lane pool.
“Those were some of the higher priorities, so we had to drop some of the other things. Hopefully those can be added back in at a later date if everything goes well with the economy in a few years,” he said.
Work began Monday on clearing the site between the existing pool and the Police Department.
“We have a plan, and our objective is to safely and efficiently get things out of the way so FCI (project general contractor) can move in and start their work,” Whitmore said.
Whitmore said the new pool loan would be paid for with money that is already in the budget and with the help of grants, city and capital funds no new taxes will be needed to pay for the project.
“Mostly it’s the Parks and Rec sales tax ‘Penny working for you’ that voters passed in 2005 that will pay off the loan,” Whitmore said.
“The theme for the issues committee was no new taxes, and so far that’s where we are at, and we don’t need any new taxes to make it happen.”
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Crews worked for more than an hour extinguishing the blaze. No one was injured in the fire.