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September 16, 2008 4:00 am

City commits to Sletten

Written by Tribune Staff

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This is the most recent rendering of the aquatic center's design, provided by the City of Powell. Certain aspects of it, such as the window wall, may not be in the final plan. The Powell City Council will continue discussing alternates of the design with Sletten Construction. Courtesy illustration

Construction of aquatic center with 8-lane pool expected to start in October

Powell will get its pool.

On Monday, the Powell City Council approved a contract with Sletten Construction, and construction on the new aquatic center is expected to begin in October. The decision came after years of planning, discussion and, at times, heated debate.

“It's been a long, hard struggle,” said Councilman Jim Hillberry. “We've been working toward a common goal and reached it. It will be a facility we can all be proud of in the future, meeting the needs of the community, the schools — everyone.”

The council approved plans for an aquatic center with an eight-lane competition pool and recreational features, including a lazy river, spray pad and toddler slide.

By law, Sletten Construction had to hold its bid until Monday, Sept. 8 — 60 days after the bid opening on July 10. After that, the company could legally alter its bid.

With that in mind, David Burbach of Burbach Aquatics, Inc., told the council Monday that it “should be in a position to award the contract with value engineering.”

Over the past two months, Sletten and Burbach worked on that value engineering, which basically entails finding alternative brands or materials that would help lower the $9.4 million project cost.

Some changes were minor and only accounted for $400, while more major changes would save the city more than $40,000.

The council discussed the alternates, but will decide on some major projects, such as the roof, in future work sessions with Sletten.

Certain projects, and therefore a concrete price tag, are pending, said City Administrator Zane Logan. Shawn Warner of Sletten Construction agreed to work on specific alternates with the city.

“He knows he has the job, but there's still going to be discussion on fluting, the roof and other projects,” Logan said. “He realizes that's yet to be determined.”

Money saved from accepting alternates in the future will go into a contingency fund, which the project currently lacks.

By accepting some of the value-engineering alternates on Monday, the estimated cost totals around $9.2 million, with additional “hard costs” coming in at approximately $900,000, Logan said. Hard costs include everything necessary to make the site ready for the new pool — waterlines, electricity, sidewalks, sewer, paving and other essential elements.

“It's a community pool, and we'll be doing it all in-house,” Logan said.

City crews will work on the pool site while also dealing with day-to-day operations. Every dollar the city spends on the pool's hard costs will be accounted for, Logan said.

“I want the public to know the city is taking responsibility for this,” he said.

The city will have to dip into its $2 million reserve fund to cover an estimated $700,000 shortfall. It will take several years to replenish reserves, and Logan said some projects outlined in the city's five-year plan may be delayed.

Mayor Scott Mangold said, “We're going to have to cut back — the city will have to cut back, but we're making the right decision ... I think the city council is doing the right thing.”

Councilman Tim Sapp cast the single opposing vote to the bid approval, citing funding concerns.

“I'm not opposed to the pool. I'm opposed to the amount we're spending on the thing, not knowing exactly where the extra money comes from,” he said. “I want to see better figures on how to pay for it.”

Sapp said he's also concerned about how single parents will afford to pay admission for the aquatic center.

“We're building it for people who need the facility, not for those who can afford it,” Sapp said.

Councilman John Wetzel said Recreation Department scholarships are under-utilitized, adding that options exist for helping low-income families with admission costs.

“We have to make it available for everyone,” Wetzel said. “And if they can't afford it, we'll find a way to make it possible. I will work hard to make sure everyone can get in that pool.”

Hillberry told the council that another option is to seek outside commercial funding to help cover operating costs.

“Knowing our budget situation, I visited extensively with a business person who is very interested in supporting the project,” Hillberry said. “He's going to champion our request to the company's foundation.”

In exchange, the company would receive exclusive rights for vending and concessions at the aquatic center. Hillberry said he expects a response by mid-October.

Escalating construction costs have caused the aquatic center funding concerns — a common trend in the market over the past two years.

“This unfortunately isn't unusual for every public and private entity dealing with (construction),” Logan said.