Fluid talks for splash pad 

Pictured is the original concept rendering of the proposed splash pad at William Zimmer Memorial Park off Rogers Street in Waterloo.  

If last week’s meeting of the Waterloo City Council’s finance committee is an indication, work on the long-delayed splash pad at William Zimmer Memorial Park may begin as early as mid-September.

The committee on Aug. 22 approved recommendation of an additional $200,000 in funding to the Waterloo Park District to aid in construction of the splash pad. 

The city also pledged $200,000 for this project last year, bringing its total commitment to $400,000.

If work were to commence on the splash pad, the first $200,000 would come from the current city budget with the second installment to be budgeted in the next fiscal year which begins May 1, 2024.

Both rounds of potential funding would come from Waterloo’s share of video gambling revenue.

Waterloo Park District Board Treasurer Julie Bradley was on hand at the committee meeting to discuss the need for this additional funding. 

While the park board had been exploring a pared-down version of the splash pad to save money, the board has since decided to pursue the original design.

The estimated cost of  the splash pad as proposed to the finance committee is $1.86 million – over $1 million more than original estimates from late 2019.

Bradley said with money already spent for equipment and engineering, $400,000 from an Illinois Department of Natural Resources Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant and the previous pledge from the city and other individual commitments, the park district would need roughly $1.4 million to fully finance the project.

She explained the district could potentially pay for splash pad construction on its own, but by doing so the district’s reserve capital would nearly be depleted – leaving little funds for other projects.

“We would be cutting ourselves basically to nothing until we get (grant reimbursement) from IDNR,” Bradley said.

The additional commitment from the city will allow the park district to maintain normal operations in the interim, she added.

Park board member Mary Gardner told the committee the splash pad would have her vote, although she could not speak for the rest of the board.

“The project needs to be completed,” she began. “I feel its something the city deserves, and the citizens are expecting, so my vote would be to spend the dollar amount we need to get it done.”

One person who has agreed to help see it through to completion is Waterloo Director of Public Works Tim Birk, who agreed to work with Waterloo Park Board Superintendent Don Prater and other contractors.

Waterloo Mayor Stan Darter, who had been involved in splash pad discussions during his current term and his time as an alderman, said “part of the problem all along was the size of the project.”

Darter explained he reached out to Birk to see if he would be able to assist with logistics since Birk has experience with projects of this magnitude.

Even with most of the pieces in place, the project will still need to be finished by June in order for the park district to be eligible for grant funds.

Gardner, who was elected to the park board earlier this year and was seated in May, expressed on a sense of urgency to finally begin the project using the original design.

“I wasn’t there through the whole duration, but I attended the meetings (before becoming a board member). It grew, and then a committee prior worked on shrinking it to an acceptable amount,” she began. “I don’t know where the time went, but by the time everything  (for the smaller version) got put into place and on paper, there’s not enough time to re-bid… and it was going to cost us more money because we were going to have to have everything drawn up again.”

She concluded by saying a smaller version of the splash pad, even though it could save the district some money, “would not be something we would be proud of as a city.”

Alderman Jim Trantham, a finance committee member, agreed the splash pad will be an “enhancement to the city,” and pointed out the district’s amount of reserve capital is a “sign of good management.”

Alderman Kyle Buettner, also a finance committee member, made the motion to recommend approval of this additional funding.

He said the use of city money to assist the park district is in line with the goals of the city, citing recent sidewalk and street improvement projects.

“Everybody’s been working on this – a lot of people for a long time. It’s something that’s going to benefit the city for the foreseeable future,” he began. “When you look at the (City of Waterloo) budget, we have a lot of money… I don’t see how an extra $200,000 to get this across the goal line is in any way going to hinder any project we do in the future. It’s not one or the other. It’s in conjunction with these other things we have started.”

There are several steps before the project officially gets the green light, though.while the Waterloo City Council is expected to approve the finance committee’s recommendation during its Sept. 5 meeting, the Waterloo Park District Board still needs to approve the proposed design and expenditure of funds.

The next regular park board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13, although a decision could be reached earlier if a special meeting is called after Tuesday’s city council meeting.

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Scott Woodsmall

HTC web