Council awards pool bid

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

Proponents of re-opening the Eminence swimming pool cleared a major hurdle last week as the Eminence City Council awarded the bid for repairs on the facility.

The 6-0 decision to award the bid to Our Back Yard Leisure Specialties came at the end of a more than two-hour long meeting that was, at times, contentious.

The repairs proposed in the bid will give the city a brand new swimming pool that will need little, if any, repairs in the next 30 years, according to Making Waves committee chairwoman Manda Gingrich.

Gingrich and the committee recommended the city accept the $237,254 bid from Our Back Yard Leisure Specialties to complete the work.

Gingrich said the bid proposed removal of all tile, utilization of marcite, cutting expansion joints, sealing cavities and "rough areas," priming and painting concrete and steel walls and then applying fiberglass to both the large pool and the child's pool. These would be "more permanent" repairs, she said.

The bid also includes a proposal to bring all pumps and filtration systems to state code without an additional bid, and included nine references and a two-year warranty from Our Back Yard, in addition to manufacturers' warranties.

Gingrich said once complete, the pool could have a 20- to 30-year life span, and reduce the need for constant maintenance.

American Leak Detect, the only other contractor to submit a bid, offered to do the job for $137,500. Gingrich described the lower bid, however, as a "temporary fix," because it contained no references and offered a vague warranty agreement.

Gingrich said the company didn't provide references, even when asked for them specifically.

Gingrich said more contractors had expressed interest in the project, but severe weather forced cancellation of appointments set for them to inspect the facility. One contractor, she said, also told her Mayor Jim Petitt had been disrespectful on the phone.

Petitt said he wasn't disrespectful, but referring the calls to council member Richard Thomas, who had been designated as the only city official to be contacted concerning the bidding process. That designation had been made by the council at a prior meeting.

"The other problem was with the original bid specs," Gingrich said. "The original bid specs ... were written by American Leak Detect ... what that means to me ... you write these exclusively for yourself."

Some council members expressed concern at the cost. In 2003, the council was told the pool would cost $15,000 to repair. Five years later, Petitt said it would take $150,000. Now, with bids in, the council is looking to spend nearly $250,000.

The city already has found $155,000 in its budget to put toward the pool - including $50,000 from a Kentucky Infrastructure Authority maintenance and repair fund, $50,000 from water and sewer reserves, about $46,300 from the city general fund and $9,611 from closing a depreciation account.

The money from the general fund had been earmarked to replacing flooring at the community center plus funds reserved for a matching grant that was never awarded, said city clerk Sandra Doane.

Additionally, the city has applied for a $75,000 grant, which also could be put toward the pool project. If the city does not receive the grant, it would be about $46,000 short of the money needed for the project.

Though Gingrich is not a member of city council, nor a city administrator, she made some bold proposals for finding the remaining money needed from the city budget, such as cutting incentive pay for city employees. She also suggested using any remaining balances in the water/sewer accounts if necessary, but insinuated that the council was not being told what money was available in the budget.

Doane countered that comment, and explained that the council receives a quarterly budget review and the annual audit.

"If they read the notes, it explains what the reserve funds are, how much is in there, the debt service that's in there," Doan said. When prompted by Gingrich, however, Doane admitted that questions about what's available have never been asked.

"The questions have not been asked, and it's there in black and white," she said.

Later in the meeting, Gingrich again targeted Doane with heavy questioning about city funding, and said the city should plan accordingly for emergency situations.

"That's what we try to do, Manda," Doane responded.

Gingrich said that because of the contractor payment schedules, the city "will have ample time to (explore options for funding) and make your choices, make a smart choice."

During questioning, council member Shawn Bright asked if there might be an opportunity for some contractors to rebid the project.

Gingrich said no. "It's over."

Council member Richard Thomas Jr., said the contractors received "bad information," which Gingrich agreed with and characterized that information as "lies."

When asked whether there was funding in other accounts or CDs that were not bound by ordinance, Doane said she gave the information to Thomas.

Gingrich didn't let up. "I'm asking you," Gingrich said.

An exasperated Doane said she gave the information to Thomas, and deposits were listed on that document.

Bright questioned the $237,000. "I love .. kids; I've got a 2-year old. But this is a big step," he said.

"If you want to do a patch job, do it for $151,000," a visibly impatient Thomas said, interrupting Bright.

But Bright continued, pointing out that that the city has been able to provide entertainment to the city at relatively low prices before, and with positive results.

"Regardless if it's the popular thing," Bright said, "... just think before you spend $237,000. We can do a lot of stuff with the money we found in our budget that's for the kids that's not just getting in and getting wet."

Council member Drane Stephens requested that the Making Waves committee allow council to help get the information it needs in order to alleviate some of the burden being placed on city employees from the project.

"I've not been asked to say this, I've not heard specific complaints," he said. "What I'm saying is whenever I've had a need, they've [city employees] been very overwhelmed with pool issues. If there is a way we as your commission can help to take some of the burden off of them, I'm willing to do so within my time."

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