Waterloo Citizens for a Pool representatives spoke with the Waterloo Park District Board at the latter’s monthly meeting last Wednesday, and the two groups were able to find common ground on at least one issue.
The WCP, whose goal is to bring a community pool back to Waterloo, was petitioning the board to construct the upcoming splash pad at William Zimmer Memorial Park in such a way that the attraction could be expanded to include a pool.
“We want the splash pad,” WCP President Kim Ahne emphasized. “The thing is we’d like the ability to expand upon it.”
Several board members expressed support for that, on one condition.
“There will be room for expansion, if the community wants it,” park district board member Shelby Mathes responded.
That was about the only subject on which the two groups agreed.
The WCP also had Ryan Casserly, president of a pool construction company called Westport Pools, speak to the board about aquatic facilities being built in towns of similar size to Waterloo on relatively small pieces of land like what is available at Zimmer Park.
“One thing that we’ve heard in months back is aquatic facilities are not able to be built on five acres of ground or less,” Ahne said before promising Casserly would dispel that belief.
Casserly showed several examples of such facilities being built on fewer than five acres in similar communities like Mexico, Mo., and Washington, Mo. All of those, including parking, cost between $3.7 million and $4.5 million.
“What you’re trying to do is build a community center without walls, that’s outside and attracts people of all ages,” Casserly said.
He went on to explain that a pool can be funded in a variety of ways including a use tax, sales tax and bonds, though the options for the park district may be more limited than those available to a city.
He also pointed out that his company can design the pool to minimize maintenance costs like the number of lifeguards required and gave advice on admission pricing.
“If you ask the residents for a tax then you charge a lot to get in there, it feels like a double tax,” Casserly said.
Additionally, he advocated for allowing room for expansion at the splash pad site.
“The whole key is master planning your property,” he said. “If you’re going to do something now, great. Just plan for later.”
While they were open to allowing room for expansion, board members expressed numerous concerns with trying to build a community pool, with Mathes being perhaps the most vociferous member.
Chief among the issues raised by board members was that, before Sondag City Pool closed several years ago, the park district tried seven times to get a new pool or fix the old one, but voters rejected the measure each time the park district placed it on the ballot.
Putting a referendum on the ballot costs tens of thousands of dollars.
“We tried it, and it failed seven times,” Mathes said of efforts for a pool. “It’s up to you guys to get the community involved.”
Board members also expressed hesitations about whether a tax to pay for the pool would pass, the process required for expanding the tax base to the entire 62298 zip code — one of WCP’s proposals — or getting a referendum on the ballot and maintenance costs for a facility that will “only be open for three months.”
The WCP may soon be able to address some of those questions because it said it was negotiating with Westport Pools for a preliminary design service that would allow the company to create a rendering of a potential aquatic facility and answer some basic questions.
Other questions like maintenance costs, however, could only be answered if the park district or another government entity decides to pursue the project further.