SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Approximately 40 residents, many longtime members of the South Plainfield Community Pool and/or its swim team, gathered at borough hall Feb. 28 to see the concept plans for the new, state-of-the-art and ADA-compliant watering hole proposed by the borough.
The plans, which call for a $2,475,000 renovation of the current facility, will also be presented to the public at meetings on Thursday, March 7 and Monday, March 18 before the project is put up for vote through a non-binding Democracy Week referendum later this month; they can be viewed online at https://bit.ly/2INAjCr.
“The goal here was to come up with something that would appeal to everyone, as well as families and kids of all ages. We think that this accomplishes that goal,” said Business Administrator Glenn Cullen.
Late last year, borough officials announced that the 52-year-old pool will not open this summer and, in January, approved a resolution to allocate $6,000 for the architectural and engineering firm Brandsetter Carroll, Inc. to develop concept plans for the pool renovation project. At Thursday night’s meeting, Charles Schneider, a civil engineer with the firm, delivered a PowerPoint presentation on the proposed project, which calls for the renovation and expansion of the current facility; a new pool would not be constructed.
To make the facility ADA-compliant, zero depth entry would be added to both the wading (children’s) pool and the leisure pool with a new stair entry also included at the leisure pool. Over at the wading pool, spray features, a climbable play structure with a slide, and an approachable water table-style play feature would be added.
In the leisure pool, a tall dumping and spray water feature along with a whirlpool feature, in-water bench seating, an in-pool shade leisure area are proposed. In the competition pool/lap swimming area, the 50-meter would be eliminated with lanes relocated for wider and more regulated length. Additionally, in the 7-foot section, a multipurpose activity zone with climbing wall and a new open flume slide would be added.
“We think we have some attractions that neighboring pools do not have and something that will appeal to everyone,” said Cullen.
Schneider, in response to resident questions about how the renovations will affect the size of the pool, stated that the proposal reduces the overall size of the pool slightly, from approximately 13,000- to about 12,000-square feet. “We tried to stay within the shell and didn't push out much at all,” said Schneider, noting, “The zero-depth pushes out a little on the sides, but that’s really it.”
The plans also call for the installation of stainless steel gutter system; installation of lighting in and around the pool, which will allow the pool to remain open later; and a new entry into the facility from the parking lot. While the four multi-color slides at the back end of the pool would be removed, the existing tube slide and upgraded filtration and chemical feed systems, which were replaced in 2015 as part of a $380,000 bond ordinance to repair the deep end, would remain.
“We looked to maintain those projects that were recently done so that the town wasn't throwing away money it had just invested,” said Schneider, noting that had those projects from four years ago not be done, they would have to been added to the current proposal.
“A lot of those costs – the slide, the deep end, and the filtration system – would have had to be put into this, but they have already been done,” added Councilman Robert Bengivenga, Jr. who, along with Councilmembers Jon Dean and Christine Faustini, the borough’s recreation liaison, attended the meeting.
Borough officials state there are also plans to relocate the sunshades purchased in 2017 and retain the current bathhouse, parking lot, and filter building. Residents also questioned what, if any, plans were in the works to improve other areas of the pool facility, such as the bathrooms and picnic and grassy areas.
“I think it’s beautiful,” said longtime member Susan Barry of the plans, noting that her only concern is that the bathrooms and the snack bar are ‘less than desirable.’
According to Cullen, funds have been allotted into the proposal to cover the cost of ‘unknowns’ with the bathrooms most likely falling into this category. Additionally, if the project is approved, the borough would be looking to upgrade the picnic area, create an ADA-compliant family restroom out of what is now the first aid room; and add ADA-compliant fencing around the facility. Those items, said borough officials, would not be funded through the bond ordinance.
Renovations of the pool also had a few in attendance concerned about the cost to join the facility. According to Cullen, individual, family, and senior membership rates won’t change significantly; instead the borough will be looking more closely into revising how guest passes are offered and the rate charged for swim lessons. “Things of that nature are going to have the larger change than the admission fees,” said Cullen, adding, “We are hopeful that a new facility will result in a significant increase in membership.”
The proposed project is estimated at approximately $2,475,000 of which a 5-percent down payment – or about $123,750 – would be paid for through the municipal budget. The cost to the average household with capital and debt services obligations is estimated at $20 a year, which, according to Cullen, would be absorbed into the rate.
“We are estimating the debt service to cost the average homeowner $20 a year over the 20-year period. That amount would be included in residents’ tax bills. We think that is a conservative number and a worse case scenario,” said Cullen, noting that the exact cost of the project and the impact on taxpayers can only be determined if the project is approved and put out to bid.
“We haven’t gone out to bid. We have a pretty good estimate but we don't know if it’s going to come in $300,000 less and we don't know if we are going to get [grant] money from the county. There are still a few unknowns here,” he said.
While there are no plans to build housing at the site should the non-binding referendum fail, borough officials state closing the pool permanently and converting the property into a park would cost taxpayers money.
“As of right now, [the borough] currently has an outstanding debit and interest obligation of $687,000 for improvements done in 2015; those things have to paid whether you get a new pool or not," said Cullen, adding that an additional $130,000 would be necessary to raise the building, rip out the cement, and close the pool, bringing the cost up to about $815,000. "Taxpayers would still still be responsible for the debt and interest bonded by the borough to fix the deep end and add the slide and updated filtration system four years ago."
If the project is approved during Democracy Week, a bond ordinance would need to be passed by the council in April with the project then finalized and sent out to bid. The goal is to award a contract in time for work to begin in August 2019 with the project completed in time for the pool to reopen on or around Memorial Day weekend 2020.
The concept plans for the South Plainfield Community Pool project will be presented to the public again at meetings scheduled for 7 p.m. on both Thursday, March 7 and Monday, March 18. The proposal will then be put up for a vote through a non-binding Democracy Week referendum the third week of March. All legal, registered voters of the borough as of March 1, 2019 or sooner will be able to cast their vote in the clerk’s office as follows:
• Tuesday, March 19 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Wednesday, March 20 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Thursday, March 21 –7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, March 22 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Saturday, March 23 – 8 a.m. to noon
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