Chatfield Mayor Russ Smith and city clerk Joel Young review the numbers for the proposed new swimming pool during the Nov. 27 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Chatfield Mayor Russ Smith and city clerk Joel Young review the numbers for the proposed new swimming pool during the Nov. 27 Committee of the Whole meeting. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS

Chatfield’s Committee of the Whole convened last Monday, Nov. 27, to determine how and when to get into the swim of things.

On Nov. 7, voters of the city authorized the City Council to spend up to $4.4 million to build a new municipal swimming pool to replace the existing pool that has been the community’s summertime escape since the early 1960s.

However, the City Council had yet to determine whether to proceed with the project, as city clerk Joel Young pointed out that the referendum simply authorized the city council to carry out a pool replacement project.

He informed the council and committee members, “The bond issue was passed for $4.4 million…the options over time are to do nothing or spend what you want to spend of that $4.4 million.”

He highlighted that the council could ultimately choose to spend all of the amount made available through the referendum or to aim for a lower amount.

“I got the sense that all of you appreciate and know where each other stands and how you were surprised — or not — that the referendum passed,” Young said.

City Council member Josh Broadwater spoke, “When we went through the school, we were told how much it was going to cost if they were going to do it (2008 elementary school construction project). So doing this fully, not doing it or doing the bare minimum…in a couple years, $4.4 million could be $6 million. The biggest issue is that our taxes just keep going up. There’s a lot of money in this town. I think if there’s a way to fund it and not have such an enormous tax impact, it would be good.”

He explained that he didn’t want the new swimming pool to be “counteractive” to new residents’ decisions to seek a home in Chatfield, or that its cost and effects on property taxes would deter new residents from settling here.

“Are you limiting bringing some people up from the south as Rochester expands,” Broadwater asked. “I think that we should not just do it without looking at the actual tax dollars.”

Mayor Russ Smith countered, “The referendum wasn’t exactly ‘Here, this is what we want you to build,’ but if we don’t do a new pool, the old pool needs help. It will be a decision you guys have to make — do we go with what the voters want?”

Councilor John McBroom commented, “It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. It’s a lot of money, but it’s going to go up, no matter what. I just don’t want to see us waste a lot of money on this. I don’t want to see my taxes go up, but I don’t want to lose the pool, either.”

Broadwater stated questioningly, “At the meeting, we all agreed that we don’t want to fix the pool?”

McBroom referred to the small voter turnout for the referendum. “My biggest thing is that we talked about the lack of participation in the vote. People have the right to go out to vote, but if you didn’t vote, then don’t complain.”

Smith observed that the municipal swimming pool does not operate at a profit. “Our pool is consistently in the red, and a new pool will be the same way.”

In regard to the benefits of having a pool, Broadwater asked, “Is that blue sky worth the tax impact?”

Smith offered, “People will either drive to Rochester to go to the pool, or will their kids go to the pool here? I know it loses money, but….”

Councilor Paul Novotny attended the meeting by phone, as he was busy in the field. “What started this whole thing is that we probably can’t stay at that site (at the high school) forever, and it was probably at least $1 million to fix the pool.”

He pointed out his taxes, as a business and commercial property owner, would be greatly impacted by the referendum’s passage. “It’s probably $500 or $600 a year more for businesses when it comes to taxes, so I agree that taxes will be higher, but this is something that we left to the people of the town to decide. We’ve got to put a little bit behind that,” Novotny said. “When it comes to taxes and what it’s going to cost, the levy is something we can control, and for the voters, enough of them said it’s okay with them for us to do it. I know there were folks that are not happy about paying for it, but even people who weren’t for it understand.”

Smith remarked, “It was put in front of the voters, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Novotny registered that he would like to see more numbers related to the project and that he felt that fundraising might be an option. “It’s not like we’re in a hurry,” he said.

Conversation turned toward the cost of upgrading the new pool from a basic bathtub to a bubble bath located on the corner of the high school property, west of the tennis courts.

Novotny went on to ask for more discussion on what amenities should be included, but also raised a point. “In my mind, we put it to the voters that it would be that spot with that picture.”

Councilor Mike Urban shared his objections. “I’m not in favor of building something for $4.4 million, or I’m not in favor of it. I think it would take some significant investment.”

Smith acknowledged that the parcel chosen for the new pool has not had its geological particulars established and that there will be costs associated with doing soil borings or excavation in order to begin the engineering and design process, especially if there’s a limestone shelf underneath instead of sandstone.

In light of the discussion regarding costs, McBroom cited that the new pool heater installed in the existing pool would be salvaged and installed in the new pool, saving the city some money.

Smith added, “There is some stuff that we have to do to be better informed to get stuff done.”

Broadwater, a parent, said, “The biggest thing for me, on the positive side, is if we do this, it bails us (parents) out for the summer.”

Smith and Young inquired as to Councilor Pam Bluhm’s opinion on the matter of proceeding with the pool’s construction. Bluhm replied, “I just figured we’d be going ahead with it. The voters voted.”

Smith concurred, “Us having this discussion…we’re not going to spend money willy-nilly.”

Urban wanted to know, “Are we looking at just $4.4 million, or another amount to spend?”

McBroom and Broadwater volunteered a figure of $3.2 to $3.4 million, and Broadwater broached the topic of the engineer’s estimate versus contractors’ actual costs, especially as related to the water features that would transform the new pool into a bubble bath instead of that basic bathtub.

“The prices of some of these things…wow.” Smith countered, “Some of their numbers are basically just cookie-cutter numbers.”

Young stated he could ask David Burbach, of Burbach Aquatics, to return to Chatfield to review the councilors’ concerns and address any questions.

Before hanging up, Novotny said, “The only way we’re going to decide to move forward with a new pool is to decide we’re going forward and doing a new pool, and then decide if it’s $4.4 million. I think we can save some money, but to zero in on the numbers, we have to know that the pool can go there. The only way to zero in on how much we’re going to spend is to do the preliminary work. We put it to the voters that we would do that picture on that site, and it’s not fair to the voters who did or didn’t vote.”

The committee adjourned its meeting so councilors could open discussion regarding the pool during the City Council meeting, and ultimately, a vote was taken during the council meeting to proceed with site work to determine the suitability of the parcel where the new pool might be built.