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President: Whitewater Aquatic Center costs have dramatically decreased

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Kevin Hoffman
April 16, 2011
— The Whitewater Aquatic Center has noticed a “dramatic improvement” in utility expenses since renovations to address previously catastrophic financial losses, said Thayer Coburn, president of the center’s board of directors.

Coburn could not provide specific figures but said he’s confident that 2011 will yield better results than 2010, when the center operated on a $10,000 deficit. That’s a far cry from the community pool’s position just a few years ago when it was losing about $250,000 annually.


An energy study last fall by Madison-based Vesta Technologies detailed how the facility could revamp utilities to save tens of thousands of dollars each year. The board adopted the plan and devised a three-phase project to install state-of-the-art utilities, significantly lowering water and heating bills.


“We’re definitely enjoying savings so far, but not as much as we want,” Coburn said. “We don’t have enough experience under our belt to put a number on it, (but) if everything is measuring properly, there has been a dramatic improvement in our utility costs.”


The aquatic center opened in 2001 and was operated by Mercy Health System for more than five years. The board of directors assumed control in 2009 and has since steadily restructured spending to chip away at the deficit.


In 2008, the center was losing about $250,000 annually. Shortly after management changed hands, that decreased to $100,000.


Coburn said that last year the center installed variable frequency drives on motors that run the pool pumps to increase their efficiency. The center also uses ultraviolet water treatment on two of its three pools.


Coburn said the center is still about $40,000 short of completing phase one of the changes, which includes UV treatment on the lap pool and other modifications. The cost was $160,000.


During phase two, contractors will install high efficiency water heaters and weather stripping for pools and doors, according to the study. Those projects will not begin until phase one renovations are finished, Coburn said.


“I would say that I think we’re poised for great things,” he said. “There are a few little hurdles we need to get over, but our future is very bright.”


Summer attendance likely will be down from the last six months because swimmers tend to use outdoor pools during warmer months, Coburn said.


The pool receives most of its funding through the city and school district, which each contribute $75,000 annually. Each committed an additional $50,000 for phase one modifications.


Vesta’s study found energy and water costs at the center are nearly three times higher than other pools of comparable size. The three-phase project is expected to save the facility about $80,000 annually, returning the cost in two years and potentially leading to a surplus shortly after.


This year is the aquatic center’s 10th anniversary. Coburn said the board hopes to dedicate a month to celebrate.



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