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Board OKs second pool X-ray

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Others say more public input improves grant chances

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Hearing some “inconclusive” results on an X-ray of the Vandalia Swimming Pool structure, the Vandalia Park District Board agreed to have a second examination.
District trustees hope that second inspection will give them more insight as they decide what to do with the pool.
At a special meeting of the park board on Tuesday, two representatives of Hurst-Roche Engineers presented the results of a radiological exam of the pool earlier this month.
Randy Mitchell of H-R said that the X-rays showed the location of electrical conduits and plumbing, but no real details on the structure itself.
Scott Hunt of the engineering firm said, “In summary, it was inconclusive as far as finding any voids.”
Hunt said the firm offered to come in for a second, high-definition X-ray, and he recommended that that be done, “just to give us a little better feeling on whether there are any structure issues underneath.”
Park board members OK’d that second examination, which Hunt said will cost $800. The first X-ray cost $4,000, about $11,000 less than initially expected.
District trustees have been discussing its options for the pool since learning last summer that rehabilitation work is needed to meet state regulations.
At this point, the park board has agreed to move forward with a rehabilitation project estimated to cost about $1.4 million.
In addition to addressing problems with the deck, that project would include the addition of a zero-entry or “beach entry” area, a separate area for young children, a water umbrella, new lighting and an underwater sound system.
The board invited Jonathon Hallberg, executive director of the South Central Illinois Regional Planning and Development Commission, to the meeting to give advice on seeking grants to help fund the project.
With Hallberg was Scott Hester of Counsilman-Hunsaker, an engineering firm that specializes in acquatic facilities.
Hallberg gave advice on preparing for grants, which elicited comments on what has been done to this point.
The district has applied for Park and Recreation Facility Construction and OSLAD matching grants, which have maximums of $2.5 million and $400,000, respectively.
Both Hallberg and Hester told trustees that state officials reviewing grant applications will consider public review and input, something that Mayor Rick Gottman said is lacking.
“They (the public) want to make sure all of the options are being looked at,” Gottman said.
Citing the outcome of the Kaskaskia College Vandalia Campus project, the mayor said that the park board can help ensure the pool project’s success by getting others in the community involved.
“They pulled a lot of people in,” Gottman said, adding that he feels the board “has got to have a feasibility study.”
Trustee Steve Hawkins said that the board has followed the necessary steps, including input from residents, to get to this point. He said that he alone has talked to 300 people.
But Gottman, Hallberg and Hester said that documented public review and input greatly enhance the district’s chances of a grant award.
“Face to face is one thing,” Hallberg said, “but calling a meeting, calling a forum” would help to get the public more involved and get that public input documented.
“The state won’t even look at you unless you come to the table having done your homework that’s documented. It’s almost a must with the PARC grant.”
Encouraging a “more comprehensive feasibility study and a revenue analysis,” Hallberg said, “The amount of public input will help you score” on the OSLAD grant.”
Gottman said, “There have been no plans presented to the public,” to which Hawkins responded, “That’s what we’re in the process of doing.”
“If they (the public) are interested, they need to come to our meetings … to come help,” Hawkins said, noting that the board has been talking about work on the pool for up to eight months.
Stout agreed with Hawkins on the issue of the park district doing what it needs to do.
“Maybe there’s something I’m missing, and the mayor thinks there is,” Stout said.
“I know what I’m not missing, getting from this dollar amount to this dollar amount (for pool work) without (more) taxes and a referendum,” he said.
In past meetings, Stout has laid out plans for funding the project with bonds secured without a public vote or tax increase, grant funds and contributions from local foundations.
Hallberg said he feels the district board needs to promote the pool project as an amenity enhancing the town’s quality of life, something that’s important as Vandalia works to retain existing residents and attract new ones.
Pool Manager Lisa Robbins said that the existence of a pool goes beyond that.
“All I know is our community cannot go without a pool, because the children will find a place to swim and there will be drownings,” she said.