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Council approves study for leisure pool

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By Jennifer Garcia

Since 1988, a warm water children’s pool has been the topic of discussion among county officials.

At Tuesday night’s county council meeting, councilors voted 4-1 to move ahead with a study for the leisure pool capital improvement project.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle voted against the motion. Both Council Chair Michael Wheeler and Councilor Nona Bowman were absent.

Councilor Robert Gibson moved, seconded by Councilor Sharon Stover, that council “direct staff to develop for Parks and Recreation Board and council consideration conceptual facility and operational options to broaden and enhance recreational aquatic opportunities in the county; such options to include at least an expansion of the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center and reconfiguration and reprogramming of the existing Walkup Center facilities. Effects on private pools should be considered.”

A sum of $50,000 has been allocated in the FY 2009-2010 budget to perform a study that would produce a conceptual design and a cost/benefit study.

According to county documents, a warm water pool was incorporated into the original design of the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center but was eliminated before construction in order to save money on the project. The idea resurfaced in 1999 when a Master Plan was drawn up for the aquatic center. The study identified a need to provide more opportunities for family recreation. In 2000, the council adopted the study.

One of the recommendations was that “the county, with ample public input, should develop plans for the addition of a leisure pool and/or water playground.” The study goes on to say that, “until such time as additional recreational amenities might be added, the county should continue to support … the initial effort to add approximately 10 warm water weekends per year.”

Since that time, warm water weekends have been added to the aquatic center’s schedule and have proven, according to Dr. Frederica Smith, to be very popular. Smith serves on the Parks and Recreation Board and attended the council meeting. She said on the average, approximately 300 people use the pool on warm water weekends. “We’re hoping to draw an extra 100 people a day if we have access to the children’s leisure pool,” she said.

Los Alamos County Parks and Recreation Manager Randy Smith gave councilors a brief PowerPoint presentation at Tuesday night’s meeting and answered councilors’ questions regarding the plan, which could, in time, include a water slide and other amenities.

“Along with attracting children, you want to make sure you spend enough money to attract the widest segment of the community coming in and using the aquatic center,” Smith said. “We do a good job of attracting those for recreational and fitness swim, then we have competitive swim. If we focus on strictly a children’s leisure pool, we did what we did 20 years ago and focus on one area. We always talk about the lack of activities for teens, but we’re missing out on the older group that doesn’t have a place to go. In looking at this, we need to broaden the scope and include something for teens and older people as well,” he continued.

 Smith told council that the pool would be adjacent to and attached to the existing aquatic center, with some modifications for windows and doors to the existing building. “Aquatic centers have evolved over the years. They’ve become almost mini water parks for municipalities,” he said.

Councilor Ralph Phelps said the instinct is to add things on when changes are discussed. “Take another look at what we have and see if it can be configured in a way to meet these broader needs,” he suggested.

In response to Phelps’ comments, Smith said when the RFP is written, it can tailored to state exactly what the county expects the study to accomplish.

Chiravalle, however was concerned with the cost of the project. “When this was presented in the CIP process, the limit was between half a million and two million. If we entertained other things besides a leisure pool, it seems to me we’d be creating a water park here. We’ll wind up spending a lot more than $2 million. I think we should stick to the intent that was approved this year in our budget process. I think we ought to be narrow to what we’re doing and confine ourselves to that for the time being. I’m reluctant to support an amusement park,” he said.

Stover said she’d like to see the county get the biggest bang for their buck. She said she had the opportunity to visit with staff from the Genoveva Chavez Center in Santa Fe and also with staff from an aquatic center in Farmington.

“Both indicate that if you want to get kids of all ages from babies all the way up to adults, you want to maximize the amenities in the facility. Let’s find out as much as we can, then we can take it to the next step,” she said.

“There’s an element in here that I want to capture,” Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer said. “If we go out for a study, we nail this. You have the potential to make a quality recreational area if we add this leisure pool correctly.”

Following Wismer’s comments, Gibson made the motion then commented, as well. “When we start off on something, we need to make sure we’re started in the right direction. This is the point at which it’s cheap to spend a little time to think about our options and what needs we’re trying to meet. That really ought to be the first step here rather than launching into a particular project. I’m asking that we take a broader scope look at our options and from there if we can afford anything at all,” he said.Since 1988, a warm water children’s pool has been the topic of discussion amongst county officials.

At Tuesday night’s county council meeting, councilors voted 4-1 to move ahead with a study for the leisure pool capital improvement project. Councilor Vincent Chiravalle voted against the motion. Both Council Chair Michael Wheeler and Councilor Nona Bowman were absent.

Councilor Robert Gibson moved, seconded by Councilor Sharon Stover, that council direct staff to develop for Parks and Recreation Board and council consideration conceptual facility and operational options to broaden and enhance recreational aquatic opportunities in the county; such options to include at least expansion of the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center and reconfiguration and reprogramming of the existing Walkup Center facilities. Effects on private pools should be considered.

$50,000 has been allocated in the FY 2009-2010 Budget to perform a study that would produce a conceptual design and a cost/benefit study.

According to county documents, a warm water pool was incorporated into the original design of the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center, but was eliminated before construction in order to save money on the project. The idea resurfaced in 1999 when a Master Plan was drawn up for the aquatic center. The study identified a need to provide more opportunities for family recreation. In 2000, the council adopted the study.

One of the recommendations was that “the county, with ample public input, should develop plans for the addition of a leisure pool and/or water playground.” The study goes on to say that, “until such time as additional recreational amenities might be added, the county should continue to support … the initial effort to add approximately 10 warm water weekends per year.”

Since that time, warm water weekends have been added to the aquatic center’s schedule and have proven, according to Dr. Frederica Smith, to be very popular. Smith serves on the Parks and Recreation Board and attended the council meeting. She said on the average, approximately 300 people use the pool on warm water weekends. “We’re hoping to draw an extra 100 people a day if we have access to the children’s leisure pool,” she said.

Los Alamos County Parks and Recreation Manager Randy Smith gave councilors a brief PowerPoint presentation at Tuesday night’s meeting and answered councilors’ questions regarding the plan, which could, in time, include a water slide and other amenities.

“Along with attracting children, you want to make sure you spend enough money to attract the widest segment of the community coming in and using the aquatic center,” Smith said. “We do a good job of attracting those for recreational and fitness swim, then we have competitive swim. If we focus on strictly a children’s leisure pool, we did what we did 20 years ago and focus on one area. We always talk about the lack of activities for teens, but we’re missing out on the older group that doesn’t have a place to go. In looking at this, we need to broaden the scope and include something for teens and older people as well,” he continued.

 Smith told council that the pool would be adjacent to and attached to the existing aquatic center, with some modifications for windows and doors to the existing building. “Aquatic centers have evolved over the years. They’ve become almost mini water parks for municipalities,” he said.

Councilor Ralph Phelps said the instinct is to add things on when changes are discussed. “Take another look at what we have and see if it can be configured in a way to meet these broader needs,” he suggested.

In response to Phelps’ comments, Smith said when the RFP is written, it can tailored to state exactly what the county expects the study to accomplish.

Chiravalle, however was concerned with the cost of the project. “When this was presented in the CIP process, the limit was between half a million and two million. If we entertained other things besides a leisure pool, it seems to me we’d be creating a water park here. We’ll wind up spending a lot more than $2 million. I think we should stick to the intent that was approved this year in our budget process. I think we ought to be narrow to what we’re doing and confine ourselves to that for the time being. I’m reluctant to support an amusement park,” he said.

Stover said she’d like to see the county get the biggest bang for their buck. She said she had the opportunity to visit with staff from the Genoveva Chavez Center in Santa Fe and also with staff from an aquatic center in Farmington.

“Both indicate that if you want to get kids of all ages from babies all the way up to adults, you want to maximize the amenities in the facility. Let’s find out as much as we can, then we can take it to the next step,” she said.

“There’s an element in here that I want to capture,” Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer said. “If we go out for a study, we nail this. You have the potential to make a quality recreational area if we add this leisure pool correctly.”

Following Wismer’s comments, Gibson made the motion then commented, as well. “When we start off on something, we need to make sure we’re started in the right direction. This is the point at which it’s cheap to spend a little time to think about our options and what needs we’re trying to meet. That really ought to be the first step here rather than launching into a particular project. I’m asking that we take a broader scope look at our options and from there if we can afford anything at all,” he said.