After a heated discussion from residents, the Garden City commissioners voted unanimously to approve a new pool that will be located at the original Garden City pool site.
The new pool will serve as both a recreation and competition facility. The vote took place during Tuesday's city commission meeting. Also, two elements, in addition to the slides, will be added.
Community survey response
More than 7,000 community members voted for their top three of the seven pool plans and their top three elements. Each pool proposal was meticulously documented and organized by physical elements, water usage, cost of project, operating expenses and debt incurred. Residents were notified of the social media vote via the Garden City Telegram, a notice in a utility bill, a social media campaign and community outreach. The plans were also presented in front of civic groups, the CIP and to all Garden City public school children, grades in 3 through 12.
The majority of the CIP voted for plan C, with the second pool, plan D — where a new bathhouse would be constructed — receiving second place. The public, on the city site, voted for the same two pools and in the same order. The CIP voted for the Fly High and Ninja elements, while the public voted for the Fly High, Surf Simulator, Bowl Slide and then the Ninja. The Fly High will cost $535,000, and the Ninja is $300,000. The Surf Simulator would cost the city $2 million and the Bowl Slide runs $550,000. These elements can be added in the future, as can a new bathhouse.
“They (CIP) want you to plan for the future,” assistant city manager Jennifer Cunningham said, “not make this a one and done.”
The cost of plan C is a little more than $10 million. If a renovation of the old pool were to be done, it would have cost the city more than $5 million more, plus increased costs in equipment maintenance, higher water bills and less environmentally friendly elements. In addition, the seal would need to be replaced on an ongoing basis.
Commissioner Troy Unruh said the pool is for the future. Currently, the pool is underutilized, with a daily attendance of 300 people. He said the current pool could hold 4,000.
Youths said they wanted certain features in a new pool, including warmer water. Mayor Dan Frankhauser said the feedback from the community was important.
“Us older people need to realize times change,” he said.
The new aquatic center
This new pool plan will modernize the bathhouse, keeping the original structure. Shaded areas are also incorporated into the design. The pool includes a lazy river, slides, 50-meter swim lanes, a small concession stand and a diving pool. The commissioners also voted to include a Ninja course and a Fly High element.
There will be no additional insurance costs with the added Ninja course and Fly High.
“We are here today making a new history,” Unruh said.
Several residents spoke up at the meeting and stated their concerns regarding the extra tax burden a new facility would place upon the taxpayer. They also were concerned about losing a piece of Garden City history.
“The most expensive thing to do would be to do nothing,” said Commissioner Shannon Dick.
Frankhauser said that city taxes have not increased in years. The commissioners have worked hard to keep taxes low.
“Your taxes are going up because of schools, the college and the county, but the city hasn’t raised your taxes,” Frankhauser said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of keeping your taxes down.”
Frankhauser said city taxes were raised by only one half-mill in 2009, the last time they were raised, he said.
When a resident asked why not just keep the pool as it is without updating it, several commissioners responded.
“It would be irresponsible,” Commissioner Lindsay Byrnes said. “We lose 32 million gallons of water every summer.”
Each day, the pool loses more than 1,000 gallons of water. This loss of chlorinated water is environmentally negligent, commissioners said. In addition to the water loss, the commissioners were concerned about safety, maintenance expenses and cost.
“The water usage is atrocious,” Dick said. “It’s going to be shut down within a year because it can’t run anymore.”
Next summer is this pool’s last hurrah. In order to obtain a replacement pool by the following summer, a design had to be chosen.
Unruh said the city has been spending over $500,000 every year for the pool.
“As a commission, we said let’s be pro-active," he said.
The commissioners said algae was growing in the pool this year and reiterated that a decision must be made to ensure both safety and cost savings, as opposed to a last minute reaction.
Several residents said the city needs to include swim meets and lessons. Unruh explained both meets and lessons were already taking place at the current pool, but the commissioners agreed that with a new facility, more meets, lessons and other community involvement will take place.
Unruh assured the public that the history of the Garden City pool will remain vibrant. The new aquatic center will be constructed at the original site. In answer to simply placing a liner into the century-old pool that is leaking more than 32 million gallons of water each summer, commissioners pointed out that this plan was entered into the vote, but simply placing a liner in the pool would not address leaky pipes and other mechanical failures. As for the liner, it would need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years, increasing operating costs.
“The cost keeps increasing exponentially,” Commissioner Roy Cessna said. “The pool is open next year for as long as it stays mechanically feasible.”
When the question was raised about putting the vote to the public, commissioners said the public has already given feedback, including the youth who would be using it. The commissioners have gathered feedback for more than one year. It was pointed out that residents may seek legal counsel.
To see more aspects of the new aquatic facility, visit www.garden-city.org.
Also at the commission meeting:
• Tyson Fresh Meats and the Garden City Co-op gave the Garden City Fire Department new fire and rescue equipment.
• Jason Hase, a staff member at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, reported numbers of users of the course is increasing, even among youth. This season, Garden City Community College’s golf team received national ranking. During the last year, Buffalo Dunes raised more than $165,000 for charitable giving.
“By the end of the year, we’ll probably be at 17,000 rounds,” Hase said. “We’re really excited.”
• The commissioners approved a proposal for prosecution services from the law office of David West, of Liberal. In addition, a motion approved an agreement for the municipal judge to be shared by Garden City and Finney County.
• The commissioners voted to ban the use of tobacco-based products, including vapor products, from parks and other recreational areas by a vote of four to one, with Cessna voting against the ordinance. Tobacco is already banned from playgrounds.
The next city commission meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 7.