Rifle dives into new pool project
With Rifle’s planned renovation of the Art Dague Pool coming in over budget, city staff along with Parks Director Tom Whitmore and Planning Director Nathan Lindquist met with residents last week to go over where the project sits eight months after it was approved by voters.
“We’re in a good spot in the project where we haven’t sunk in millions,” Whitmore explained during a public meeting last week to discuss the project. “We’re still very early in the project.”
Last September, Rifle voters easily approved of a loan of up to $6 million, with a repayment cost of not more than $9 million principal plus interest, for the purpose of financing the cost constructing a new public swimming pool complex, in a 753-317 vote.
While the original concept was initially projected to cost around $5.7 million during the concept design, once the project moved to the schematic design the numbers came back much higher.
Revised schematic design pricing put the project as originally designed at nearly $10 million.
City staff then went back and obtained pricing on a reduced and revised “Base Plan.” While the Base Plan still has improved features, elements like the lazy river and an additional bathhouse were taken out.
Still, with the project pushed another year and escalation projected to be around $500,000, the Base Plan option is now priced at $7.7 million, well above the loan approved by voters.
Many in the audience at the May 9 pool forum were still supportive of the project, stating how important a new pool will be to local families. One audience member stated, “I think it’s time for Rifle to spend on a recreation project like this.” Others wanted to know “how they were so off with the estimate?”
Whitmore said that things could have been done differently, and the parks department could have looked into getting a cost estimate to get a more accurate construction number before posing the question to voters, but it would have required the city to make a significant investment up front with no guarantees.
“We didn’t want to spend that kind of money without assurances that the money would be used,” he explained.
In general, costs for both public infrastructure and private construction projects around the region have been going up in recent months.
Mark Gould Sr. is owner and CEO of Gould Construction in Glenwood Springs, which is one of the main contractors for such projects in the area.
He pointed to rises in steel and aluminum prices as a result of recent trade tariffs as one reason construction costs are so high right now, but added that it is a simple case of supply and demand.
He also pointed to Colorado’s economy.
“Colorado’s economy is on fire right now,” he said. “There are cranes everywhere in Denver. There’s just a ton of work for construction and with the higher demand for concrete and other materials, the price will rise as well.”
At the Rifle pool open house presentation, Lindquist identified several potential funding sources for the project, including capital funding, private fundraising, and dipping into the Parks and Recreation fund balance.
“We will have to weigh a new pool against what we have and what we want to improve,” he said.
Rifle was recently awarded $500,000 for the project through a Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant. Lindquist said Rifle will continue to look for more grant opportunities and added that the city applied for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, placing 17th among 60 projects that applied with only the top 14 funded.
Over the next few months, city staff will continue to investigate additional funding sources. From June to November the plan is to complete design development and formal construction documents. By the end of the year, they will look to get City Council approval of a “Guaranteed Maximum Price” contract to proceed with construction.
Construction is expected to begin in late summer and fall of 2019, with the pool opening in the spring of 2020.
The original question posed to voters stated the project would be done “without any increase of any existing taxes or imposing any new taxes, which Whitmore reiterated at last week’s presentation.
To watch last week’s pool renovation project open house go to RifleNOW.org.