Report tallies up projected cost for city pool repairs

VERGENNES — The long-awaited, $4,000 report from the inspection of the Vergennes city pool arrived in early November and suggested up to $150,000 of “remedial work.” City officials do not believe all that is recommended is necessary — especially the two biggest-ticket items that could cost up to $135,000.
Those items are a complete re-plastering of the pool for between $40,000 and $65,000, and replacing the pool’s filtration system for $60,000 to $70,000. The recommendations are in a Nov. 2 report from Steve Biernacki of Aquatic Development Group of Cohoes, N.Y., who conducted the inspection in October.
“I just don’t see the immediate need for complete re-plastering,” said City Manager Mel Hawley on Thursday. “If you look around, really, it’s in pretty good shape. It’s interesting, that’s what he said when he was here.”
Hawley acknowledged the pool’s gunite surface routinely has been patched over the years, but said no patches were necessary this past season and that the pool had been re-plastered about 20 years ago.
The other major recommendation calls for a “high pressure sand filter” system to replace the pool’s existing vacuum diatomocaceous earth (or DE) filtering system.
But Hawley said the pool’s DE system is working properly and the pool’s water quality is tested weekly.
“We’ve been using DE since 1965,” he said. “Any time I have ever gone to the pool during the season, the water is sparkling.”
At the city council’s Nov. 15 meeting, Hawley said there are recommendations that he agrees with in the report, which was shared with Vergennes swim team parents who lobbied for it as well as with council members.
Those include that there should be clear indicators of water depth both on the pool deck and below the water line, and that chemicals used to sanitize the water — chlorine and muriatic acid — be stored separately and further away from the public.
Hawley said at the meeting the pool’s lightning detection system should also be replaced, and the best solution to chemical storage is probably a new structure.
Exactly what kind of a structure could depend on whether city officials decide to follow another recommendation, to automate feeding the chemicals into the pool water, which could mean burying lines. Currently, pool workers pour the chemicals into the pool.
“We either build a building, or build an addition,” Hawley said on Thursday. “We’re going to look at that.”
Hawley also noted one major error in the report: On its first page it incorrectly cites the pool depth on the swimming lanes and needlessly suggests that all swim meets be halted. And he disagrees with its assessment that the diving stands are dangerously corroded.
Hawley also told aldermen at their Tuesday meeting that he remains in contact with Biernacki to learn more about the pool finances end of the operation.
“There’s not enough about money in here,” he said.
For example, at the meeting Alderman Renny Perry said he would like to know if it would be cost-effective in the long run to have an automatic system to feed chemicals into the pool, both by saving labor and by not having to shut the pool down to  add chemicals.
Hawley said the specs for the report included a request for a review of operating costs.
“Did it fulfill the obligations under the proposal we sent?” Hawley said on Thursday. “We shouldn’t have to ask for that.”
At last week’s meeting, Mayor Bill Benton said the council plans to act on pool issues. He suggested a group including swim team parents, Hawley and public works head Jim Larrow should sit down and go over the report and “look at recommendations” and “assign costs” to actions that could be taken before next season.
He said the pool would return to the agenda after Hawley spoke further with Biernacki and more questions were answered.
“We need to figure out what to do and what it’s going to cost,” Benton said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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