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The Rundown – Commission undecided about future of pool

Post Date:08/15/2018 1:59 PM

The Rundown is prepared by the City of Newton Public Information Office to summarize the City Commission meeting and does not represent official Commission minutes.

7 p.m. August 14, 2018, Newton City Commission meeting

At Tuesday night’s meeting, City Commissioners were divided on whether to move forward with a plan to renovate the Newton Municipal Pool.

The Commission has been discussing the pool’s future since last September, when City staff reported that about $100,000 in maintenance and equipment replacement would be needed before the 2019 swim season. In light of the needed improvements, this was considered a good time to think about a renovation to the pool, which has not been done in many years.

Commissioners initially directed staff to prepare two options: to simply fix the necessary maintenance issues, or to renovate the pool and add some new water features. The idea of building a large-scale water park – at a cost of $3 million to $5 million – was dismissed as too expensive and not necessary to meet community needs.

A $1.7 million renovation proposal was developed, including a new baby pool, wet bubble pool, family slide, bath house upgrades, diving boards, shade structures and other features. A community survey about the pool received 1,100 responses, with 91 percent in favor of a renovation and 79 percent saying the proposed improvements would cause them to use the pool more often.

The proposed financing plan was to combine the pool renovation and a new $900,000 ballfield at Centennial Park into one bond issue and have the Public Building Commission make the bulk of the bond payments. The PBC is funded by .8 mills each from the City, the Rec Commission and the School District for the purpose of maintaining and improving recreation facilities. The funding agreement between the three entities is scheduled to expire in 2024, so it would need to be renewed by all three before the pool project could begin. The City and Rec Commission are proposing to increase the PBC contribution to 1 mill from each entity to help increase the revenue and possibly pay off the bonds faster.

The four City Commissioners present on Tuesday – Commissioner Barth Hague was absent – agreed to direct City staff to prepare the new PBC agreement and present it to the Board of Education for consideration. They could not agree, however, on the proposed renovation to the pool.

Mayor Kathy Valentine and Commissioner Glen Davis were in favor of moving forward with the plan, citing the survey results and the overdue need for improved amenities for Newton families. Vice Mayor Leroy Koehn and Commissioner Rod Kreie said they would prefer to make the necessary “band aid” repairs and postpone the decision so that the Commission could consider more options and do more long-range planning for outdoor aquatics.

The Commission decided to continue the discussion at their next meeting, when hopefully all five Commissioners will be present. The Commission is under some time pressure if they want to pursue a renovation, as contractors have estimated the project would take about nine months to complete, meaning that construction would need to begin in October for the pool to be ready for the 2019 swim season.

Community recognition

The City Commission honored the Ultimate Martial Arts team that recently competed – and brought home 25 gold medals – at the United Taekwondo Alliance Grand Nationals in Shreveport, Louisiana.

In other action, the City Commission:

  1. Approved plans for water and sewer improvements for the new commercial development at East First and I-135 and set a bid date of 11 a.m. Sept. 6.
  2. Received a request from Future Foam for a 10-year, 100 percent tax abatement for a planned business expansion, and set a public hearing for the Aug. 28 meeting.
  3. Appointed Commissioner Glen Davis and Newton resident Roger Gillispie to the USD 373 visioning team.
  4. Approved a special event request from Peace Connections for use of picnic tables for an open house on Aug. 28.
  5. Approved an application for a cereal malt beverage license for La Laguna.

For more information, please contact Director of Communications Erin McDaniel at 284-6055 or emcdaniel@newtonkansas.com.