by Dennis Dalman
Plans for the Watab Park wading pool have hit a snag, although the snag might just morph into an opportunity, depending on what Sartell residents decide they want.
The Sartell City Council wrestled with new details about the plans at its Feb. 25 meeting.
The presenter at the meeting was Nick Nowacki of a Big Lake aquatic-design and engineering company called “Reengineered, Inc.” To help develop a plan, Nowacki has met many times with Sartell Public Works Director John Kothenbeutel and Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni.
The pool project is one of several improvements, updates and additions slated for Watab Park.
Months ago, the pool renovation project was estimated to cost about $70,000. Further study, however, determined to do a renovation, including concrete work, would cost more than twice that – about $150,000, Nowacki told the council. He said he spoke with many contractors who said they wouldn’t even consider doing such a project because it is just not worth doing since the renovation just would not amount to much difference, that the project would merely be a Band-Aid to extend the life of the pool somewhat.
“It would just not be a good return for the money,” Nowacki said.
A far better solution, he said, would be to create something new that would excite children and parents and offer lots of summer fun – either a splash pad or a new wading pool with play features added. A new pool would cost about $280,000, Nowacki noted, and any play features could be added from a kind of a la carte menu of choices, depending upon what residents would like. The $280,000 amount would pay for a new pool (or splash pad), all the water piping, concrete decking, a surrounding fence and some play features for either pool or splash pad.
Many such projects have been created throughout Minnesota, such as one in Onamia that includes a dozen play features such as water jets and playground equipment. Waite Park’s River’s Edge Park also has a similar splash-park playground. Nowacki showed the council slides of some of the examples of splash pads. The one in Onamia, he said, cost about $240,000.
A state grant of $145,000, with matching funds from Sartell, could pay for the project, but Degiovanni told the council she would have to ask the state grant program if those funds could be used for a redefined project. Another option, she said, is to use funds in the sales-tax revenue stream if the council should so decide.
One advantage of a splash park vs. wading pool is that there would be no need for lifeguards, Nowacki noted.
Kothenbeutel told the council the city made “Band-Aid” improvements to the wading pool about 10 years ago. He told the council that, in his opinion, he could not guarantee the wading pool’s condition would hold out for much beyond a year.
Council members agreed they do not have a strong opinion on pool vs. splash pad. They also agreed to refer the question back to committee and for discussion at the new planning commission, which now handles issues of park development as well as citywide planning. Council members also agreed they need wide public input before making a decision, and efforts will be made to seek such input.