Outdoor pool cannot open at Rec Center this summer

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

By Karen Hall


City councilmen got bad news at their work session Monday night: there is no way the outdoor pool at the Rec Center can open this summer.

Parks and Recreation Director Jimmy Stitt reported that the plan had been to repair the 11-year-old liner of the pool and make it last for one more season, while applying for a grant that would pay half the $100,000 cost of a new liner.

Just in the last 10 days it has been discovered that the liner is so brittle patches won't adhere to it. The severe cold this winter is believed to have damaged the liner more than anyone realized.

The pool is now 62 years old, and the concrete is fragmenting under the liner, Stitt said.

Even if the city could give up waiting for the grant, and write a $100,000 check for a new liner, there is an eight to 12 week lead time before a liner can be ready, and installation takes six weeks, so the pool could not be open before mid-August.

"There's no way it can be open this summer," concluded Stitt.

The whole future of the outdoor pool is now in question.

A new liner could be installed in time for swimming in 2015, but even if this is half paid for by a grant, it is still only a "band-aid." The life of a liner is estimated at seven to 10 seasons.

Stitt said another option would be to eliminate the pool and replace it with a "splash pad," which could cost from $350,000 to $500,000.

According to Wikipedia, "A splash pad or spray pool is a recreation area for water play that has little or no standing water. This is said to eliminate the need for lifeguards or other supervision, as there is little risk of drowning. Typically there are ground nozzles that spray water upwards out of the splash pad's raindeck. There may also be other water features such as a rainbow (semicircular pipe shower), a mushroom shower, or a tree shower. As well, some splash pads feature movable nozzles similar to those found on fire trucks to allow users to spray others. These splash pads are often surfaced in textured non-slip concrete or in crumb rubber."

Another option would be to demolish and rebuild the current pool. This would cost at least $675,000, and take from Labor Day to Memorial Day to complete, Stitt said.

A much grander "community pool" with shallow water for children, lanes for lap swimmers, and a diving area, costs about $2 million, while a totally new aquatic center in a different location would cost upwards of $3.5 million.

"This came about in the last two weeks," said City Manager Randall Dunn. "It's my responsibility to let you know that pool is over 60 years old (and it's) not going to last forever. We need to make some major decisions."

"I can't imagine Lewisburg without an outdoor pool," exclaimed Councilman Robin Minor.

It's not as if there will be no pool at the Rec Center this summer -- the indoor pool is in great shape, and plans have been made to open the adjacent patio where mothers can sit while their children are in the pool.

The numbers of people using the pool is another question. According to Stitt, judging from Lewisburg's population, the number of visitors to the pool should be around 330 per day. This is true in June, he said, but falls off to less than 100 per day after July 4.

"We didn't expect a decision tonight," Dunn told councilmen. He said over the summer he and Stitt would get experts, including representatives from liner companies, to look at the pool and give their opinion.

"We will get some good information together," Dunn promised.