Thursday, June 26, 2008
Swimming pool discussion gets heated
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs mayor and board of aldermen heard from two groups with differing opinions about the West Valley Avenue pool at last week’s meeting.
After discussion, the general consensus of the board was to discuss a possible contract with the Rev. Joseph Selman to use the country club pool for the summer.
First up was Roy Reed with Memphis Pool whom Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said would present an assessment, status and cost to put the city pool back into operation.
“In a nutshell, the pool is in very bad shape,” Reed said. “Anything has a life span to it. I can remember working on this pool in the 1960s. The deck is shot and unsafe to walk on in bare feet. If they try to fix the top, the substrate will not hold it.”
He said water had penetrated the concrete wall of the pool and rusted the steel that reinforces the concrete. Chunks of the wall are falling out as a result.
“The structure is not a good situation,” Reed said. “It’s bad. The circulation lines leak badly.”
He said freezing and thawing have caused the water lines to burst and seep, and the deck around the pool has sunk. The federal government has passed laws about pool safety after individuals have been sucked into drain pipes, he said.
“You have so many issues, repairing would do you no favor,” Reed said.
Some old pools can be replaced with a pool in a pool, he said, but this pool is too small for that to be practical. And water sanitation would have to be addressed as with any water feature.
“Look, everything has a lifespan,” said Reed. “You’ve maxed out in my opinion. I can say that with 45 years experience.”
He suggested the city build another water feature, a shallow spray park, for example. No lifeguards would be required, but supervision would be necessary.
Although Mississippi has no swimming pool codes, Reed said his company builds and designs to industry standards to make sure their products meet industry standards.
“You’ve got big issues,” he said. “We could not take your money because this is falling apart. You would be doing your citizens a disservice if you just had someone come and flush the lines. How can I delicately say, the pool is shot?”
Alderman-At-Large Tim Liddy asked what it would cost to build a new pool.
Reed said it could cost between $250,000 and $300,000 at a minimum. To build something small and rinky dink would be an embarrassment to the city, he said.
He got laughs when he said kids would have to take a number and wait their turn to get in a small pool.
Alderman Russell Johnson asked what a waterpark would cost.
“It’s not necessarily expensive,” Reed said.
Today’s waterparks offer simple but exciting things kids enjoy, like buckets of water that empty or sprinklers and sprayers.
A waterpark would pay for itself, he said.
The old pool would be difficult to manage from the standpoint of water quality because of the aging equipment, he said.
Alderman Naylond Hayes, who has pushed for repairing and reopening the West Valley pool for three or more years, asked Reed about his credentials.
Reed said he has a background in physiology, math, and plant physiology.
“You are in the business of building pools, right?” Hayes asked. “When did you evaluate the pool?”
Reed said he looked at the pool about 10 years ago and already knows the condition of the pool.
“But I can come and do it,” he said. “I hope I’ve been some help to you. We are a reputable company.”
Hoyt Johnson asked Reed if he could get the pool in operation in two weeks.
Reed said he could not, if his company would be responsible for the condition of the functioning equipment and for testing.
“The whole thing needs to be replaced and pressure tested,” he said. “The wall may chip so bad, you can’t get through it. No, I would not give you a time frame.”
He said he has gotten pools ready late in the season for the city of Memphis, but his company already has experience with the pools it works on.
“I did not say there is no way to do it, but starting this late in the year, my opinion as an outsider is it is not a good use of your money,” Reed said.
Hoyt Johnson said there are several hundred kids who would use the pool this season if it were available.
DeBerry replied his office had done what the board has requested and looked into insurance.
Reed offered to do an assessment and file a report on the feasibility of repairing the pool.
Hayes confronted Reed, saying he was at the pool 19 years and has never seen Reed working on the pool.
“What day were you there?” Reed asked in jest.
Paul Lampley rose to ask for another consultant to speak to the issue so there would be off-setting opinions.
“Let me allay your concerns,” he said. “The fact is, he (Reed) is in the business of repair as well as new (pool construction), but because he does not recommend repair does not mean he has a dog in the fight. He would give a quote rather than give an informed assessment of what he sees.”
Lampley pressed for a second opinion.
“His (Reed’s) lack of trying to make a sale lends credibility,” DeBerry added.
Reed agreed he would offer to do the work for a fee, but he did not advise the pool be repaired.
“It’s just like an old car, sometimes it is best to junk it,” he said. “But we will do anything you want us to do that is legal.”
W.A. McMillan rose to speak and wanted to read a citizens’ fact-finding report, but DeBerry interrupted him mid-way.
“My instructions were you bring the report and I would disseminate it to the board,” the mayor said.
When McMillan insisted, DeBerry said, “Dr. McMillan, you do not control this meeting.”
McMillan said he was not instructed to give the report to the mayor rather than present it to the board.
He handed out copies of the report then began reading aloud.
“The board can read it,” DeBerry said, after McMillan said it was unfair for the mayor to take the board down for an impromptu inspection of the pool before it had been cleaned last year.
“It’s just one page, but...” said McMillan.
“We are competent enough to read it,” DeBerry said.
“We have information on insurance and an estimate of the work,” he said.
DeBerry asked what specifications for the work gave rise to an estimate of $12,500 to repair the pool – a price quote from Lieutenant Jeffries.
McMillan said Jeffries has experience in swimming pool repair.
“Mr. Payne is here and could explain,” McMillan continued. “The pool will be in first-class condition if you approve this report.”
He said a quote provided by the mayor last year that it would cost nearly $80,000 to repair the pool was not founded.
DeBerry rebutted that his expert with 40-plus years in the pool business should know a little about pools.
He added he felt it was rude to have questioned Reed in the meeting.
Hoyt Johnson asked to make a brief statement.
“Not unless the board wants it,” DeBerry said.
Hayes took control of the discussion.
“For the past two summers it was told the citizens and board that we couldn’t find insurance, that we needed three water safety instructors - which was wrong - and third, that it would cost too much to repair that pool,” Hayes said. “If you know anyone else who knows more about concrete than Lieutenant Jeffries....The bottom line is this board has been lied to.”
The city clerk took a moment to explain how a search for insurance was made.
Ki Jones, board attorney, interjected that even the estimates provided in the citizen’s report would be large enough to require putting the pool repair out for bids.
“There is no way to make this repair by July 1 this year,” he said.
DeBerry then revealed the board has been in discussion about renting the country club pool for the season.
“It is not as large a pool as the one on Valley Street, but it would accommodate 35 swimmers,” he said. “The pool is in much better shape than our pool. If the issue is kids swimming, not the swimming pool, it could satisfy.”
Alderman Johnson said his concern was the safety of the children - that the citizens’ report did not address the filtration system, water quality and water suction issues.
“If one kid dies, it wouldn’t be worth what we’re doing now,” he said.
Wayne Jones ended the conversation, saying the larger issue is recreational activities for children.
“I would encourage the community to put in something more permanent that can take care of all our children,” he said.
The findings in citizens’ report included the following details:
The citizens’ committee members listed in the report were W.A. McMillan Sr., Lieutenant Jeffries, Alfred Moore, Donald Street, Paul Lampley, Harvey Payne, Naylond Hayes, Albert Jones, Travis Isom, Ronne Robinson and Kelvin Buck.
A check of the record at the city clerk’s office showed Memphis Pool invoiced the city for four dates when repair work on the filtration system and other items totalling over $14,500 was done in June, July and August 2000.
In 2001 Memphis Pool made three trips to service the city pool in June and July, billing for close to $300.
Memphis Pool returned to service the pool again in July 2002, June 2003, July 2005 and June 2006, billing the city close to $2,500 for those visits combined.
Invoices for service to the pool from Memphis Pool totalled $17,590.05 between year 2000 and 2006.
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