Maintenance expensive, building anew far more so.
by David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Concerned with the continuing cost of making repairs to the Holding Park pool, including $394,000 slated for an upcoming renovation of the bathrooms, Commissioner Margaret Stinnett has asked for a description of the costs to run and maintain the town facility.
At the midyear retreat Tuesday night, some of the answers were forthcoming, but not all.
“I’d like to see a cost-benefit analysis done on the pool … the annual cost to operate the pool versus the annual revenue,” said David Bissette, a Wake Forest resident who attended the four-hour meeting at town hall. “[They] talked about operational numbers. We didn’t really get numbers on staffing. We didn’t see the total cost to run the pool.”
What they did learn is that the summers-only, large outdoor pool costs about $50,000 a year to run and maintain, to fix minor leaks and the cost to fill it.
The town takes in about $55,000 annually from admissions, swim lessons and concession stand sales. Leaky pipes and patchwork fixes for cracks used to result in more water loss — in 2009 it cost $21,000 to fill the pool.
Since then, it’s dropped to about $10,000 and the figure will drop even lower when a new coating is added which officials say will eliminate interior cracks and leaks. Upgrading the filtration system will also allow the water to be left in year-round without degrading the equipment, saving on refilling costs as well, Town Manager Mark Williams said.
Town staff is of the opinion that there shouldn’t be other major expenses for some time, Williams said, adding, “Unless a pipe breaks.”
It’s unclear how many people use the pool. The average number of visits has been about 11,000 until 2012, when a hot summer and beautification to the exterior seemed to draw more people in; now it’s up to 13,000. But people are counted every time they enter, including if they go out and in again.
Also in need of an upgrade is the old pump house pipes system. They were last renovated in the early 1980s, Parks and Recreation Director Ruben Wall said, and have had patchwork fixes since then.
Repairs to the bathrooms and lockers include a complete overhaul of the dingy floors and walls, fixing fixtures and making them American Disabilities Association accessible.
“We really are way out of compliance,” facilities manager Mickey Rochelle said.
Commissioners threw around a few options for the pool, such as partnering with the YMCA to run it. Mayor Vivian Jones said she’s received calls from Y personnel in that regard; but Wake Forest recreation programs manager Ed Austin warned that it may be difficult to reconcile what the Y charges with the town’s fee for residents.
“I think it’s important to keep the pool,” Jones said.
A partner could keep the pool open for longer hours, and more days, Stinnet said, adding she’d like to see it fixed “so it’s usable more than 80 days a year.”
“My intentions were not to close the pool,” she explained. “My intention was to find out how much money we had spent in the past seven or eight or 10 years on maintaining an older system of a pool that we have.”
“You can put but so much duct tape on a pipe,” she added. “We have spent a lot of money on patch jobs.”
Stinnett asked what it would cost to build a new, smaller pool. Estimates were $5 million for a smaller, outdoor pool; more if it comes with a removable cover.
Planning Department Director Chip Russell suggested even that was unrealistic. A new indoor pool would be more likely, he said, and that would have to be built on land where more parking was available. His estimate was $8-12 million.
Town staff promised to get back to commissioners with a more comprehensive cost analysis for the last 5-7 years at an upcoming meeting.
Other than Zachary Donahue, who said he doesn’t favor closing the pool at this time, but agreed it would be good to see all the costs, other commissioners didn’t weigh-in. Without a consensus to take action one way or another, the pool will remain as is.