Janesville70.2°

Sheiffer paddles away from new aquatics facility

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Ann Fiore
December 4, 2007
— Janesville can’t afford to spend up to $5 million to build a new aquatics facility, City Manager Steve Sheiffer will tell the city council at an aquatics study session next week.

In an interview Monday, Sheiffer said he plans to recommend improvements to Rockport Pool—the city’s 27-year-old pool—rather than constructing a new aquatics facility when the council meets Wednesday, Dec. 12.


“I think what we’ll be focusing on is upgrading Rockport Pool and not building a new facility at Palmer Park,” Sheiffer told The Gazette.


He stressed that his recommendation would not prevent the council from choosing Palmer Park as an aquatics site.


Sheiffer’s aquatics report, which will be released to the council later this week, is the latest development in nearly two years of debate on Janesville’s aquatics facilities.


A resident committee met for more than a year before recommending a $9 million plan that included facilities at Palmer and Rockport parks and splash pads at six other parks, including Riverside Park.


Sheiffer later suggested a project maximum of $5 million, saying the city could fit that much into its debt service without a major tax increase.


But after crunching the numbers, Sheiffer said upgrading Rockport Pool makes the most sense in terms of cost and usage.


-- Cost: The city will spend $937,000 to maintain Rockport over the next 10 years, according to a cost analysis in Sheiffer’s report. Add to that a $178,000 annual subsidy to operate the pool.


“The pool gets older every year. When should we make an investment to lower the subsidy? That’s the question,” Sheiffer said.


-- Usage: City staff studied the time it takes Janesville residents to drive to Rockport and Palmer parks. The conclusion: 40,000 people live within a 10-minute drive of Rockport Park, and 48,000 live within a 10-minute drive of Palmer Park.


“It’s just a marginal difference between the two,” Sheiffer said. “… Rockport Park has an existing pool, and it’s in the correct location.”


The report recommends no changes at Palmer Park wading pool or Lions Beach.


Sheiffer said his spending recommendation doesn’t mean the aquatics committee wasted its time.


The committee’s discussion revealed the need for the time-distance study and cost analyses, information the city didn’t have last spring, he said.


That discussion also prompted many residents to weigh in with their comments. Users of the pet exercise area in Palmer Park have been especially vocal about preserving the park as it is.


The resident committee offered a long-term plan for aquatics, Sheiffer said.


“They were instrumental in bringing the subject to the forefront. We wouldn’t be in this discussion if the committee had not provided leadership.”


The council study session is open to the public, but no public comments will be taken. A public hearing on aquatics likely will be held in January, Sheiffer said.


IF YOU GO

The Janesville City Council will hold a study session on aquatics and landlord licensing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, in the council chambers at City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. The meeting is open to the public and will be broadcast on JATV Channel 12, the city’s public-access television station. The public will not be able to offer comments, however.



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