Splash pad waters murky

With a deadline to accept the contracting bids passing Dec. 9, the Waterloo Park District’s plans for a splash pad at William Zimmer Park remain unclear.

Bids for the project were originally received in September, with Fitzgibbons Contracting of Waterloo offering the low bid of $1,534,504.

The splash pad planned for William Zimmer Park off Rogers Street was originally estimated to cost $801,000 when planning started in 2019, leaving board members with questions of how to raise additional funds for project completion.

The doubling of the project cost occurred largely due to sharply increased labor and resource costs stemming from shortages and supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Waterloo Park District President Shelby Mathes explained in September the park board tried to save some money due to this foreseen cost increase by buying equipment for the splash pad earlier in the process. 

Previous equipment purchases as well as surveying and other architectural costs have already reached about $300,000.

Altogether, the cost of this project is now expected to total about $1.8 million, including both the bid and equipment.

In navigating the increase, the park board has since requested and received a series of month-long extensions to accept the bids, though Friday’s final deadline came and went with little further progress.

Multiple extensions to the project bids occurred as the park district pushed to accrue additional funding necessary to ensure the project would be fully covered.

J.P. Fitzgibbons of Fitzgibbons Contracting said he was recently contacted by the park district and asked to submit a revised bid, with the lounge area around the splash pad being changed.

In October, the Waterloo City Council offered to assist the park district with money from the city’s video gambling funds contingent on the park district receiving $400,000 for the project elsewhere.

The park district had previously been in discussion with the William Zimmer Foundation which Mathes said had been willing to assist with the project’s funding.

The Zimmer Foundation later told the park district it would be unable to donate the funds directly as the park district is a taxing entity.

The possibility of Waterloo Citizens for a Pool accepting the donation from the Zimmer Foundation as a 501(c)(3) and then passing it on to the park district was discussed at several park board meetings, though the ability of the Zimmer Foundation to perform such a “pass-through” is still unclear.

The park board and pool group have not formally talked about doing such a measure to secure Zimmer Foundation funding for the splash pad. 

Waterloo Citizens for a Pool President Amy Grandcolas noted the impact the park board’s ultimate decision with the splash pad could have on the hopeful pool project.

A long-discussed future Waterloo pool, if approved by the park board, would likely make use of the same bathhouse and other infrastructure at this splash pad.

“We’re watching it closely because what they do will affect our plans moving forward, but there’s a lot up in the air,” Grandcolas said.

Mathes did not respond to several attempts by this reporter for comment on the splash pad situation. 

No additional extension has been granted regarding the park district’s Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources totaling $400,000, which was awarded in January 2020. 

While the park district has received $200,000 of this grant funding, it would need to be repaid if the splash pad falls through. If the project continues, the remaining $200,000 would be disbursed once construction work begins on the splash pad.

As of now, a June 2023 completion deadline remains the IDNR requirement for this project.

Further discussion is expected at the Waterloo Park District Board meeting this Wednesday, Dec. 14, beginning at 7 p.m. at City Hall. 

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web