Elkhorn City Council votes to close Sunset Park pool this summer

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Andrea Anderson
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ELKHORN – Children in Elkhorn will need to find a new pool to splash around in come summer.

The Elkhorn City Council voted 4-2 Monday night to close the pool at Sunset Park this summer. Aldermen Hoss Rehberg and Gary Payson Sr. voted against closing the pool.

The council came to the conclusion after a debate about whether opening the pool was fiscally responsible and fair to students who count on it has employment.

Several aldermen also voiced concern about possible complaints regarding the pool's compliance with certain regulations, such as handicapped accessibility standards. The pool has not been in compliance with handicapped accessibility standards for about 20 years, said Carter Arndt, project architect for MSA Professional Services.

There is funding for a handicap lift in the 2014 budget, but Alderman Brian Olson suggested the city hold on to that money and add it to the $3.5 million budget for the new pool.

One alderman, Scott McClory, suggested to “roll the dice” one more year and keep the pool open for the summer because the city has not had any previous problems or complaints.

Alderman James D'Alessandro said the city has been fortunate and should close the pool for the summer.

In 2013, the city council proposed a new facility to replace the pool at Sunset Park. Funds for the new center will come from the city's $7.5 million capital improvements budget.

In a November non-binding referendum, Elkhorn residents voted in favor of replacing the pool.

Closing the pool is not ideal, Wendy Ard, Elkhorn recreation director, said after the vote.

Twelve to 16 college students who work at the pool during the summer may not have jobs, Ard said. She is hoping to give the students summer jobs as camp counselors.

“I don't like that we can't provide the community with a pool, but in the same sense, in 2015, they will have a brand new pool,” Ard said.

Olson said he has been in contact with area schools, organizations and centers regarding alternatives for the pool.

In a unanimous vote Monday night, the city council also approved MSA Professional Services to lead the pool planning, design and construction process.

Construction will start as early as Aug. 1, and the goal is to have the pool open in June 2015, Arndt said.

Soil samples from Sunset Park will be taken in February. If those come back OK, the design process will start in March. Demolition will begin no earlier than Aug. 1, Arndt said.

The city has no definite design plans, but it has several minimum requirements, including handicapped accessibility to the pool and showers, zero-depth entry and six swimming lanes and starting blocks for the city swim teams.

Mayor Howie Reynolds appointed a steering committee to oversee the pool's design process at the meeting. It includes aldermen and other community representatives. 

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