“The frog pond is so dilapidated that it cannot go online this year,” Director of Public Works Gary Butts told the council at the annual budget meeting last week. “In order to put the frog pond back online, it would take over $35,000 in repair costs. That doesn’t include the $10,000 lifeguard cost to man it and $5,000 in miscellaneous chemicals and other costs. So you’re talking over $50,000 to throw money at something that’s not going to last.”
Issues with the 25-year-old frog pond include repainting the entire pool, which requires three layers of different types of paint. The crumbling deck also needs replacing, among other upgrades.
Butts said he’d like to see a splash pad installed on the same location, and talks are currently underway on the feasibility of such a project. The current guess is that a splash pad might cost around $150,000.
“It’s possible we could get grant money to help cover up to 50 percent of that,” Butts said. “So in the future, if possible, I would like to take and set aside money for a splash pad. Once we have money secured, we can try to go after grant money.”
City Administrator Zane Logan said that, while the city realizes the frog pond is a popular venue for families in the warmer months, the cost to maintain it has become more than the city can afford.
“The thing is, we don’t charge for its use,” Logan said. “There’s absolutely no line on the revenue side for that. It’s been a very nice feature over there in the summer for the little kids, but it’s been there long enough that regulations change, safety concerns need to be updated, and the upkeep just gets to be a lot.”
Members of the council expressed concern at the closing, asking what, if anything, could be done to prevent it.
“If we threw the $50,000 into it, how much longer could it operate?” asked Councilman Tim Sapp.
“Probably three years at best,” Butts answered.
Aquatics Supervisor Angela Frank agreed.
“It’s a Band-Aid,” she said.
Adding another wrinkle, the frog pond also does not meet American Disabilities Act compliance, Butts said. Sapp then asked what the projection would be to bring the frog pond online for the long-term.
“You would have to totally re-do the frog pond, and that would cost more than the splash pad would cost, I can tell you that,” Butts said. “Basically you would have to extend that drop as you go into it into a zero-beach entry in order to be ADA compliant, along with re-doing a lot of the concrete. And it would have to have lifeguards involved.”
Hoping to avoid continual questions about it, Councilwoman Lesli Spencer asked what would be done with the frog pond now. Butts said the idea would be to use the existing hole for the splash pad, and then dig out a bit more as needed.
“We can use what’s there, and re-do it to use that area,” Butts said.
“And what about the froggy dude?” Spencer asked.
“Our supervisors have designed the splash pad around the froggy,” Butts said. “He will still be the focal point of the area.”
In a Wednesday interview, Frank and fellow Aquatic Supervisor Tanya Bonner noted the savings a splash pad would provide to the city after the up-front cost of the project.
“With the splash pad, we don’t have to have lifeguards and we don’t have to have the chemical costs,” Frank said. “In the long run, everyone will come out ahead because of less costs.”
A timeline for a splash pad is unknown, as it’s still in the planning stages, but two years would be a safe estimate, according to the supervisors. Until that time, they encourage residents to take advantage of the Powell Aquatic Center as a way to beat the heat.
“You can come in every day, regardless of weather,” Bonner said.
In other Aquatic Center news, the city approved an operating budget of $632,799 for the facility in 2017-18 — up $60,560 from the current year. While the majority of that total goes toward salaries and wages, much goes to general maintenance and upkeep.
“Under pool maintenance, we need to replace the two valves in our manhole that drains the pool,” Frank told the council. “Those are $1,500 apiece to do that. We also have to repaint the slide inside the center. I was hoping it would be a lot less to do, but the quote I’ve got right now is $13,000.”
That amount spurred some discussion among council members, who specifically wondered if that total was in line with similar aquatic centers in the state. They also asked whether the paint job would remedy a particular safety concern or if it was just cosmetic.
“Right now, it’s not a safety issue,” Frank said. “But cosmetically it looks pretty bad. The $13,000 is the number I have at the moment, but I’m hoping to find someone to do it for less.”