The Gillette City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the submission of a grant to the state to help cover future potential costs of addressing ongoing operational issues at an aging city pool.
Pending approval from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, overseen by the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, the grant could provide upwards of $975,000 that could be used to either refurbish, remodel or completely replace the city pool.
With the grant submission underway, the City Council now has some big decisions, with big price tags attached, to make in the coming months regarding what direction to take regarding the 30-year-old aquatic facility that could be reaching the end of its functional life.
An aging attraction
It’s been decades since the city pool was last remodeled and the fact that the city has an aquatic facility that lasted up to this point should be celebrated, according to City Administrator Hyun Kim.
But with that, leakages from broken piping for pool water features has caused the city to lose massive amounts of water that intensified ongoing ground settlement that, in turn, resulted in severe erosion on the hillside that butts against the track and field area for Twin Spruce Jr. High this past summer.
Ground-penetrating radar conducted by city staff also reportedly showed another issue: large voids in nearly every aspect of the pool with severe settling occurring beneath the deep pool, which was built on top of fill material.
“That’s never a good thing when you have settlement, you have pipes, all those things,” Interstate Engineer Brian Milne said, who was present at a council pre-meeting at City Hall on Dec. 7.
Leaking and settlement aside, the pool pipe system is also seeing a mass influx of water well above and beyond what the original design called for with three pumps running instead of the required one.
Rather than sending 1,260 gallons of water per minute through the pipes, which city staff believed was occurring, the pumps were sending closer to 2,200 gallons per minute, leading to additional pipe erosion and problems with the inline valves and overloading the filter, according to Milne.
All the issues show that something must be done, and Milne, along with City Engineer Joe Schoen, presented the council with four options that could be used to save water, prevent leaks, and improve the operation of the system depending on how much the council would be willing to spend to have a fully functioning pool.
Four ways to go
The cheapest option, per Milne, would cost the city approximately $95,000 and would neutralize the most prevalent operational issues such as bringing the flow rates in the pool’s underground pipe system back to more reasonable levels and fixing leaks.
In this option, the city would do away with the wading pool, replacing it with a concrete deck and abandoning all existing underground wading pool feature piping in place, according to Milne, who said the project design could be complete by mid-January with construction completed by May 30, 2022.
If timed correctly, the cheapest option, along with an additional two options, could be completed without the city missing a swim season, per Milne.
The next cheapest option would constitute a significant price hike for the city at $1.8 million. This option would be a nonstructural fix to make the pool watertight by installing a new PVC liner in both the diving and recreation pools.
Additionally, this option would include installing a new splash deck area with ground sprays that would provide families with younger kids a place to play aside from the zero-depth area, Milne said.
The third option could cost as much as $2.2 million and, similarly to the previous option, would require the installation of a new PVC liner.
Unlike the previous option, however, this option would remove the diving pool completely and replace it with a tower water slide. Rather than a plunge pool at the bottom, the slide would utilize a run-off trough that uses the same water as the main pool.
The third option would also require regrading the slope that leads down into the Twin Spruce Jr. High track and field area, which had been significantly destabilized by the water leaks earlier this year, per Milne.
By regrading, he continued, the slope would then become more stable.
With the highest price tag of all the options presented to the council at $3.5 million, the fourth option would be a complete demolition of the existing city pool, sparing the bathhouse and pump house, and replacing it with a new single water body, multi-use pool and a tower water slide.
The fourth option would require the most significant construction time, Milne said, adding that the city would be hard-pressed not to lose a swim season if they chose the reconstruction route.
“You’re going to lose a swim season,” Milne told the council. “Given the construction, we’re not going to be able to shut it down at the end of the year and get it done over the winter. There’s a lot more extensive work.
If the council did choose the fourth option, however, the new pool could be reinforced with rebar and the concrete sides could be sprayed in with a nozzle, which would make the new pool watertight.
The council has yet to indicate which direction they would like to go, but the most desirable option could be reconstruction that, while presenting a larger price tag upfront, would be the most cost-effective over the course of its functional life, according to Milne.
All the other options would require the council to come back to address similar issues down the road with another project and another price tag, Milne said. The new pool could last 40 years, making its total dollar amount significantly less than the other options aside from the first.
Also, with construction for the remodel projects loosely slated to begin after the 2022 swimming season ends and ending before the 2023 swim season, the council would also need to accept the $95,000 price tag of option one to refit the pool assuming they still wished to open the pool this coming summer.
The fourth option, however, would already require the city to lose a swimming season while construction is completed and would eliminate the costs associated with option one entirely.
If the council did go with the fourth option, the design could be completed by the end of January, Milne said, with whatever contractor that wins the bid ready to begin work as early as possible in 2022 to be ready for 2023.
Additional discussions regarding the future of the city pool will be forthcoming in the upcoming months, according to Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King.