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December 30, 2008 3:32 am

Pool construction on track

Written by Tribune Staff

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A Sletten Construction Company subcontractor pours footings for the exterior walls of the aquatic center. Tribune photo by Toby Bonner

Council, Mayor tour construction site

Wintry weather has slowed construction of Powell's new family aquatic center, but the project remains on schedule.

“We've worked every day,” said Shawn Warner, president of Sletten Construction, the contractor hired for the pool's construction. “We feel like things are going right as scheduled, and we'll keep putting one foot in front of the other in this weather.”

Beginning in January, crews will use a ground heater to thaw the frozen ground at the construction site in Homesteader Park. The ground heater pumps hot water through flexible tubing and thaws one foot of ground per day.

Construction on the facility began in October, and the ground heater wasn't necessary until recently, Warner said.

Dozens of crew members are working at the construction site, which is larger in scale than some may expect.

“I don't know about you, but when I look out at this, it looks so much bigger than it does on paper,” said Nancy Ronto, project manager with Burbach Aquatics, Inc. “It's sometimes hard to visualize what $8 million looks like — it's big.”

Ronto accompanied Powell City Councilmen and Mayor Scott Mangold on a tour of the site last week. She pointed out the pool's different sections, including the eight-lane competition pool and lazy river.

Ronto said that, in addition to being on schedule, the pool will be compliant with a new federal law that requires anti-entrapment drain or grate covers.

The law, called the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, took effect on Dec. 19. It mandates that all pool owners install anti-entrapment drains or grate covers.

Its namesake, Virginia Graeme Baker, drowned in 2002 at the age of 7 after being held underwater by a spa drain's powerful suction.

Some pools around the country have had to close until they are compliant with the law, but Ronto said the new aquatic center will be built with the required drain and grate covers.

“You guys are actually lucky this project didn't move along faster,” Ronto told councilmen on the tour.

If drain and grate covers that didn't comply with the law had been installed a year ago, the city would have had to pay the additional costs to re-install new devices.

“It's perfect timing,” Mangold said.

Ronto said it's the first time in the history of pools that the U.S. government has governed swimming pools with federal legislation.

Ronto will return to Powell for the first major concrete pour, which is expected in January.

The underground plumbing is complete, which was a major undertaking, Warner said.

“It's quite a challenge,” he said. “There's lots and lots of plumbing.”

In addition to the normal water and sewer for a construction project, there's a lot more plumbing required for a swimming pool, he said.

Councilman Josh Shorb said he's impressed with the crews and construction progress. On an average work day, dozens of crew members work at the construction site.

“I'm surprised they got so much done this fast,” Shorb said. “I think we have a good crew working on it — people who know what's going on. Part of the reason Burbach was hired is because they have a lot of experience overseeing these projects.”

Mangold said he is also pleased with the progress at the construction site.

“They seem to doing things on time,” Mangold said. “We just need it to warm up.”