Parks Board balks at estimated pool repair, operating costs

The Parks Board discussed an engineer’s estimate on the cost to repair, bring up to code, and operate the pool at their Dec. 13 meeting.

Members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board were unsatisfied with an engineer’s evaluation of Devine Swim Club, Inc.’s pool as presented at a Parks Board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Board Chairman and District 4 representative Jennifer Schott was in attendance, as were District 2 rep Linda Gunn and District 5 rep Debra Randall.
Mayor Bill Herring, Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez, District 5 Councilman Cory Thompson, City Attorney Tom Cate, and City Accountant Denise Duffy were also at the meeting.
District 1 rep Albert Garza and District 3 rep Mary Allison were absent.
Aquatic Consultant and Civil Engineer Calvin T. Brannon of the C.T. Brannon Corporation inspected the pool on Nov. 1, 2017, along with City Engineer Raul Garcia of Garcia & Wright and members of City administration.
In a letter dated Nov. 2, Brannon pointed out that the site is not handicapped accessible; the bath house does not meet accessibility standards and requires renovation; the lack of overhead lighting rules out nighttime use; the diving board needs to be removed; and the pipes that run from the pool to the filters appear inadequate to turn the pool over.
Brannon wrote that cracks in the pool’s shell could be sealed and painted, and that the pumps and filters to turn the pool over appeared adequate, though they were not inspected to determine if they were in working condition or would need to be replaced.
Brannon estimated the cost of repairing or replacing deficient items to bring the pool up to code and possibly add amenities at between $55,000 and $75,000. The bath house must be made ADA compliant, which Brannon estimated would cost an additional $90,000 to $110,000.
In all, Brannon estimated the cost to bring the pool up to a functioning level that is legally compliant anywhere from $145,000 to $185,000.
That figure does not include additional liability insurance the city would be required to purchase, or the operating costs of opening and running the pool, which Brannon pegged at $80,000 to $90,000 annually.
“Based on the lack of amenities the pool offers, the lack of food and beverage offerings, location, and other factors, I estimate your revenues would probably not exceed $15,000,” Brannon wrote.
Instead of owning and operating its own pool, Brannon suggested the city try to entice a hospital or organization such as the YMCA to open and run a pool, with the city making annual cash contributions.
Brannon also suggested “splash pads, splash pools, interactive fountains, or similar un-supervised venues” as alternatives.
The Devine City Council considered the installation of a splash pad and other upgrades at Briscoe Park contingent upon being awarded a 50/50 matching grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife in 2017 before ultimately choosing not to pursue the project.
“My experience tells me that Devine would have to expend something like $2.5 million to $3.0 million to make a project that would even approach paying its own way charging $8.00 to $12.00 per person per day,” Brannon wrote. “I do not think Devine nor Medina County can support a water park of that size.
“Based then on these facts, I cannot in good conscience recommend the city take on the operations of the swimming pool even if repairs were offered by the seller.”
Schott voiced her dissatisfaction with the findings of Brannon’s inspection, and said she had expected a line item breakdown of exact costs.
“For me, if I was just handed this, and we hadn’t discussed anything prior to this or I really knew nothing, I wouldn’t be able to base my opinion on whether I feel like this is good for Devine or not,” Schott said, adding that she felt like Brannon’s report amounted to “a personal opinion.”
Herring pointed out that Brannon is an aquatic engineer, and that an inspection by an aquatic engineer is required by the Texas Municipal League (TML) before they will consider providing liability insurance.
Randall said that she felt like Brannon’s estimates were too high, and Schott questioned whether they were even accurate.
Gunn expressed concerned with putting money into a facility that was built in 1972.
“I guess I’m going from experience of so many things that swimming pool needed to get it up to code, I just have a concern about that,” said Gunn, who was the city administrator during a time when the city still owned and operated the pool each summer.
“In my opinion, I just feel like when you start going into it, it’s going to be a lot more,” Gunn added.
Randall suggested that paying to open and run a rehabbed and ADA-compliant pool could be a stepping stone until building a larger facility in the future.
Gunn was skeptical that the city could afford the cost of rehabbing and renovating the pool, especially considering running the pool would likely result in an additional annual loss.
“Basically when you operate a swimming pool you’re going to operate a loss,” Gunn said.
Discussion followed over how much money the city would likely lose each year if running the pool, and whether the just the pipes needed to be replaced, or the pipes, pumps, and filters.
Herring said that Brannon hadn’t inspected the pumps, but that the turnover of the water had to be sufficient to keep it clear.
“That’s one of the last fatalities I know that we had is because you couldn’t see the young man at the bottom of the pool because it was so cloudy,” Herring said.
Confusion followed over whether Brannon’s estimates included the possible replacement of pumps.
Rodriguez said that in addition to being present when Brannon performed his inspection, Garcia called Brannon to discuss the findings and estimates in Brannon’s report.
“I feel like this, right here, what [Brannon] sent, this is like the conclusion in his opinion to the situation,” Schott said. “We didn’t get the information to assess what our opinion would be, I feel, because we don’t have the details.”
Rodriguez said that Garcia could explain Brannon’s report more fully and go over what the estimates entailed, and the Board voted 3-0 to table further discussion of the pool until after hearing from Garcia at the next meeting.
Garcia fielded questions from Randall, Gunn, and Allison at a Parks Board meeting on Jan. 15, but because both Schott and Garza did not attend, the Board again voted to postpone further discussion about the pool. A report on this meeting will run in next week’s edition of The Devine News.
The next Parks Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 29.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer