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Charles City swimming pool initial report: Some parts still good, but leaky

By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

Much of the shell of the municipal swimming pool at Lions Field is in good shape, but there are significant problems with the joints between the concrete slabs that make up the pool, according to a preliminary assessment of the pool’s condition.

Tyler Mitchell, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, told the Parks & Rec Board at its regular meeting last week that he had received a very preliminary report from JEO Consulting Group of Ankeny, the group the board hired to help decide if the 31-year-old pool can be renovated and improved, or if it is past it’s maintainable life.

“The recirculation pump, filters and chemical system need to be modified or replaced,” Mitchell said. “Floors and walls are in great condition with the exception of the joints. They did a bunch of different tests – more than what they told us they would do – to see if we have any problems with the sidewalls or flooring and they didn’t find anything. They just found a lot of bad stuff with the joints. They need to be replaced. Removed and replaced.”

He said the report – contained in an email from an engineer with JEO – was just the early findings, and the engineer would set up a time with the board for a much more detailed explanation of what they found after the company had completed analyzing the data it collected after the pool was drained for the season.

Jeff Otto, the board president, said his biggest fear with replacing joints is that the concrete is cut away on both sides of a joint, the old concrete removed then the space is filled.

“When you fix that joint you’re creating two more, which we’ve done, and then you’ve got two joints instead of one that can get bad,” he said.

Mitchell said a leak test they performed after he pool closed, where no water was added for three days, showed that the pool lost 11,100 gallons of water in that time period. They got that number by metering how much water it took to refill the surge tank, plunge pool and regular pool back to their operating levels.

As a reference, the pool holds about 350,000 gallons, Mitchell said. In a 90-day season, if it loses 11,100 gallons every three days, that is 333,000 gallons lost over the season.

“So throughout the whole season with evaporation and what we lose, we lose a whole pool water supply,” he said.

“Those days were actually really warms days when I took the test, and we didn’t get any rain,” he said. “That’s how much water we lost with evaporation and everything. They’re doing all the figuring of what the evaporation should have been.”

The Parks & Rec Board has a contract with JEO Consulting Group for $40,000, broken down into a first part where the existing pool is being studied, for $12,000, and a second part, including a pre-design, and conceptual phase with 3D visualization of possible replacement pools, for $28,000. The board can stop after the first phase if it decides it wants to go ahead with fixing the existing pool.

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Continued discussing creating a new skating park, and the process of raising money to do that. The city has $10,000 set aside, the Lions Club has donated $5,000, the Rotary Club has pledged to donate an as yet undecided amount, and the Park Board is applying for several grants.

Mitchell said it looks likely that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will says it’s OK to build a skate park on land the city owns on the north side of the Cedar River, east of Brantingham Street. The land was purchased with flood mitigation funds, and so there are restrictions on what can be built on it, including a prohibition against dwellings or any structure that would hinder the flow of flood water.

Mitchell is working with a company that has said it can provide and install skate features for between $16,000 and $33,000, depending on the equipment, plus it would cost about $20,000 for a concrete pad to place them on.

  • Discussed potential replacements for wood mulch that is spread at the Lions Field playground every year. The city currently provides the mulch, and it is spread by members of the Lions Club and the Rotary Club. The groups have wondered about instead of applying wood mulch every year that they consider something longer-lasting such as rubberized pellet mulch, which is made from ground vehicle tires.

Mitchell said the cost for enough rubber mulch for Lions Field would be about $36,000, as opposed to the $1,400 to $2,800 it costs each year for one to two truckloads of wood mulch.

Phoebe Pittman, a teacher and City Council member who is the council’s liaison to the Park Board, said her classroom at the middle school is the farthest away from that school’s playground and on the second floor, and the rubberized mulch on that playground still gets tracked all the way into her room.

“I hate it,” she said. “The kids track it everywhere. They play with it, shove it in each other’s pockets and pants, bury themselves in it.”

She suggested that Lions Field would be a great place for an inclusive playground, where a hard surface rubberized mat makes access available to everyone and specialized equipment is available for kids with various physical challenges.

Mitchell said he agreed, but noted the cost of a hard surface would be $145,000 for Lions Field, plus the surface would have to be poured on top of concrete pads that would have to be built.

  • Heard a report that the pickleball courts at Sportsman’s Park are now open, with new surfaces and nets.


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