City council votes in special budget meeting to replace city swimming pool

The start of the special budget meeting of the Philip City council at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15, took less than a minute to approve minor business before addressing the swimming pool emergency situation.

Approved building permits applications included Golden West Telecom for a concrete retaining wall, Emily Kroetch for excavating and repairing a sewer line, and Casey Seager to excavate and repair a water line.

Mayor John Hart then immediately addressed the audience, which overflowed into the hallway outside the courthouse's Community Room. "The city has never, never talked about closing the swimming pool. That is not going to happen. We are going to fix it. Now, we just have to figure out how."

Matt Reckling, Public Works Director for Philip, presented an update on the emergency situation. Work had begun September 1 on the replacement of the pool deck. Much of the old concrete had been broken up and removed. During the late night of Thursday, September 10, and early morning of Friday, September 11, rain swelled the exposed sand around the pool. Rusted-through anchors and support beams gave way, and one side of the swimming pool's metal shell buckled inward. Reckling said, "On the backside of the shell are stiffeners, which are two-foot on center, made of channel iron and welded on. They are now rusted, cracked and broken off at the bottom. Basically, they are just gone." Though Reckling and his crew worked through Friday, the age of the 1975 pool was too much. "The seams in the rust line are popping. The west side also started to go, but the boys and I caught it in time."

Lester Robbins Construction, Inc. is the contractor for replacing the swimming pool deck. Nick Robbins said, "Trying to repair the current condition of the pool, rather than replacing it entirely, definitely has the potential for problems."

Rough estimates for repair quickly go upwards toward the $100,000 mark. Rough estimates for replacement of just the pool itself are around $250,000. Carol Schofield, director of the pool, said that the pool house and much of the peripherial aspects of the complex would not be part of the replacement costs, since they are still usable. Reckling pointed out to the council that the total replacement costs "would depend on whether or not you want our guys to do the labor of demolition and of taking away of the rubble. We have a lot of other chores between now and next Spring to do - filling in pot holes, snow removal and other things - but, we will do what you want."

Also present was Harlan Quenzer with Schmucker, Paul, Nohr (SPN) and Associates, which offer engineering, surveying and GIS services. He confirmed that there are presently at least five leaks in the pool. Whatever is to be done, whether replacement work starts this fall or next spring, the pool could be caulked on a temporary basis.

Quenzer addressed the currently stalled deck replacement project. "Normally, the party initiating the contract pays for work done to date, then enters into negotiations about the termination of the contract." Robbinson said that though he has other commitments scheduled before winter which he must fulfill, "This project was our biggest job of the year and we've been preparing for it for months. If we walk away from it empty handed, we will be hurting." Hart, Quenzer and Philip legal advisor Gay Tollefson will negotiate matters with Robbins. The deck work will still have to be put in after the pool is completed, so negotiations will include keeping the contract open with Lester Robbins Construction and thus not having to rebid the project.

Financing the new pool was then discussed. Replacing the pool would not qualify for many economic development emergency loans, since a community swimming pool is not considered a vital part of the city's infrastructure. Promissory notes, bonds and lease/purchase agreements are being investigated. Maximizing the possible property taxes would bring in only an estimated $10,000 more beginning next year.

Hart consistently addressed each council member, rather than