By Travis Gulbrandson
Although no official action was taken, the Vermillion City Council discussed the possibility of taking on a Sioux Falls company as a consultant on the project to expand the pool in Prentis Park.
The discussion took place at the council’s special noon meeting Tuesday.
Parks & Recreation Director Jim Goblirsch said representatives from TSP of Sioux Falls recently came to Vermillion to discuss consulting on the project.
“When we say consultant, we’re not talking about designing the pool or carrying anything out,” Goblirsch said. “We’re just looking at the conceptual designs of what and how we could (best) utilize the space in the park, keep its historic value and make it more user-friendly.”
The meeting took about three hours and included discussions on making the park accessible under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act, possibly relocating some of the current park venues and keeping a lot of the “green space,” which Goblirsch said was overlooked in the water park design that was presented last year.
“The conceptual design didn’t take into consideration green space, it didn’t take into consideration that they would move it to the south further, that it would take out a lot of the Frisbee golf courses,” he said. “They focused strictly on that pool concept, and not the park concept.”
One item in the conceptual design about which Goblirsch said he has received a lot of feedback is the placement of the parking lot.
“(People) don’t want a parking lot in the middle of the park,” he said.
The city council discussed the pool at its last special meeting, as well – specifically the feasibility of installing and paying for everything included in the design, which would run $6 million.
Council vice president Howard Willson acknowledged that he was not at the previous meeting, but expressed concern with what seems to be a change in plans.
“I know that we spent a year or better studying this,” Willson said. “We had committee and citizens’ meeting and everything. Are we now thinking of scrapping the whole thing and starting from scratch, or are we still thinking of having a concept of a pool that this committee came up with?”
City Manager John Prescott stressed that the design that was unveiled last year was conceptual, and added that the city needs to do a better job of educating the public.
Prescott added that the pool committee “did a great job” investigating what the community wanted, going so far as to survey both youths and adults. It was from that feedback that the design was made.
“Some people have taken that as, that’s what we’re building,” Prescott said. “I think that if it was a $600,000 project, we probably would be. But, it’s a little bit like the library project – we had a lot of ideas … and then we sifted through those and figured out what we could afford to do.
“That’s kind of where we’re at now – to shape down to what’s realistic,” he said. “No offense to the committee, but they didn’t necessarily focus on the funding piece of it.”
Council member Tom Davies said there is still time to get a concrete plan in place.
“The pool doesn’t need to be shut down immediately,” he said. “We still have some life left in this pool, so while initially I thought there was probably more urgency to get this done, and we never know exactly what’s going to happen … but there is potential life left in the pool.”
Goblirsch agreed, saying, “There’s not a hard expiration date on the pool. The asterisk there is that it’s not getting any younger, and the equipment’s not getting any newer inside there, (but) we can operate it another couple of years.”
Council member Kelsey Collier-Wise asked Prescott if it would be feasible to present a bond initiative at the 2014 general election if a plan was finished on or before Dec. 1.
Prescott said he thought it would be.
“It sounds like maybe we’re just changing the steps, that we’re looking at the whole park first, and then we would go back to that feedback in that drawing,” Collier-Wise said.
No official action was taken at the meeting.