Council Consensus Moves Forward With Different Option, Additional Cost for Nichols Park Pool Renovation

By Benjamin Cox on July 12, 2023 at 2:18pm

A consensus was reached by the Jacksonville City Council on how to proceed forward on the Nichols Park Pool improvements.

Reg Benton of Benton & Associates presented the council with two options to move forward after a single bid came forward on the pool’s improvements. Trotter Construction out of Macomb was the lone bidder. The bid came in at $3 million, more than double what the city had allocated for the project. The pool has been closed the entire summer in anticipation of renovations.

Benton said the council needed to reach a consensus so the project could move forward and be ready on time for next year’s pool season.

Benton said both options include complete replacement of the guttering of the pool, which is in need of the most repair and has been causing the pool to lose water over the last two pool seasons, as well as renovations to the bath house to accommodate families better. The new guttering will be stainless steel, which is said to have a longer operational life than the current material. Benton says the Department of Natural Resources OSLAD grant that will pay for approximately a third of the renovations that includes those basic repairs and upgrades: “The grant included removing lots of the deck area around the perimeter of the pool. One: so that we could install this stainless steel gutter system and it’s roughly no more than about 2 feet below grade, which is where we then reconnect to the existing concrete walls, which are very structurally sound. Then, all of those areas are included to be back-filled with a new concrete deck poured on those.”

The remainder of the funding is expected to come from portions of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funding that remains along approximately $400,000 in general matching funds.

Benton told the council that the first option is essentially what appeared in the grant application to IDNR with no additional features being added to the pool at about the $1.5 million price tag: “Feedback from the contractor Trotter as well as their stainless steel gutter provider, we had curve shapes in [the original plans], and they said if we squared that off, still maintained a zero-depth, beach-like entry, we could save $80,000 right there. In these updated plans, that’s we are now showing. Otherwise, for the most part, the essential facilities are the same as what was shown in the original grant application.”

Benton says the second option, with additional funds kicked in to the project, would add a water toy to the zero-depth entry to the pool: “The next proposal has a piece of equipment somewhat like what we would have put on the splash pad, trying to get a little bit more of an impressive appeal for pool users. I know that was a priority. It would be placed in the middle of the zero-depth entry area. Obviously the target age here is young children…probably 9 years old and younger would be the largest target audience for this. I know that’s an important part of the people who can use this pool.”

The water toy addition would cost approximately $150,000 more for the city to add on now that the splash pad addition is off the table. The extra money would also account for any additional pipes and pumping systems to be added to the pool’s current infrastructure.

Ward 4 Alderman Aaron Scott asked what it would take to also add two large slides. Benton says that it would require additional upgrades to the water pump system to have more turnover in the water and chemical system to add the slides. Benton also said it would put too much of a time crunch on the deadline to use the DNR grant funding to add those features at this time.

Scott says that the option with the water toy is a good start, but he doesn’t feel it’s enough to draw more people in: “I just still think that we are not hitting the boat on drawing people to the pool without a larger slide or some type of other feature. I understand that it wasn’t a part of this project and it can’t be a part of this project. I think if we are going to spend the $1.65 million and get the zero-depth, get the shaded areas, fix the concrete and gutter, and add this water feature for the children – it’s a good improvement but I don’t think it’s quite enough to bring a much different number of people to the pool.”

Benton says that engineering will look at doing enough improvements in this round to prepare for possible additional upgrades in the near future without busting the budget.

The council eventually gave a consensus to proceed with the water toy feature option, with Ward 3 Alderman Kent Hannant not providing his opinion saying he needed more time to investigate whether he thinks investing in the current pool structure is a worthy cause. Hannant had concerns that the pool had reached its current end of life and also had worries that once the pool was tore open for the new renovations that more problems would be discovered. No official action could be taken on the item by the council as it was not officially listed as an action item and further documents needed to be provided to make things official.

A vote on Trotter’s initial bid with a change order to put the bid within the city’s budget will take place at the July 24th Jacksonville City Council meeting.