North Mankato OKs $2.3 million in Spring Lake Park swimming upgrades
NORTH MANKATO — The North Mankato City Council signed off on $2.3 million in upgrades to the Spring Lake Park Swim Facility on Monday night.
Council members approved early plans and specifications on the upgrades during a public meeting. They also ordered city officials to prepare to put the project up for contractor bidding.
“This reflects the council’s commitment to the Spring Lake Park Swim Facility,” City Administrator John Harrenstein said. “They’re excited about it because they’re responding to citizens’ priorities.”
In March, consultants recommended up to $2 million in renovations to the facility, which hasn’t undergone a major upgrade since it was built in the 1960s. About $1.4 million of those renovations are considered necessary improvements, such as replacing the filtration system, the bottom fill, piping and gutter systems.
Consultants told the city that water equal to the volume of the swimming facility circulates through every 19 hours, more than three times longer than recommended. As a result, the pool only filters about 60 percent of its water each day.
City officials are also adding a $450,000 warming house next to the swim facility that would serve nearby hockey rinks and help turn Spring Lake Park into a year-round recreation area.
Earlier this year, North Mankato officials were concerned the city didn’t have enough funding or borrowing capacity to address both projects without raising taxes. Harrenstein said the project was “about $200,000 to $300,000 greater than what (he) wanted,” but the city could try to use money built into its parks budget or other areas if borrowed money couldn’t cover all of the costs.
“What we can assure residents is there will be no tax increase linked to this,” Harrenstein said.
Several amenities will not be a part of the project. City officials have discarded eight planned shade areas, a potential heating system, replacing fencing at the facility, and building two 30- to 35-foot water slides.
North Mankato officials will gear the swim facility toward swimmers ages 15 and younger. Amenities scheduled as part of the upgrade include:
• A 40-foot tall rock climbing wall children can scale and jump off of into the pool.
• A zip-line from the rock wall to the swim pond.
• Two 15- to 20-foot drop slides.
• Floating lily pads with an overhanging rope ladder.
• A smaller water slide for younger residents.
• A “multi-play feature with spray elements.”
• Two water-drop features
• Basketball hoops and volleyball nets
• An additional shaded area for parents.
Harrenstein said the amenities amount to about 20 percent of the project’s overall cost. Donations are welcome to add any additional renovations.
Several residents have asked whether the swimming facility — essentially an outdoor pond — will have its sand replaced or concrete put in to officially make it a pool. Harrenstein said doing so would force the city to comply with additional county and state health codes, which would mean building more bathrooms and larger infrastructure that would cost millions of dollars.
“It would be more than double the cost of what we’re proposing,” Harrenstein said.
Not everyone thought the city was wisely spending its money, however. Tom Hagen urged the council to invest in sustainable energy and other money-saving measures first before spending money on the swim facility, though he said he had nothing against the project.
“We need to get caught up,” Hagen said. “We are far, far behind where we should be.”
Port Authority President Dave Arnold contended the city, as well as area businesses, have implemented energy-saving programs over the past few years.
“I think there are people in North Mankato that are energy conscious,” he said.
The project is scheduled to start construction after Labor Day and wrap up by May 2018. Harrenstein said construction likely won’t affect this swimming season or next year’s swim season.
Source: Mankato Free Press