Two-month closure planned
By Scott Bellile
The New London Aquatic and Fitness Center is slated to close for over two months next spring when an estimated $1 million mechanical system upgrade project would take place.
The project still needs approval by the New London City Council next month. But if the proposal goes through, then improvements at the pool could begin around March 19 and wrap up June 1. The pool would reopen June 4.
Between now and Nov. 21 contractors are submitting bids for four sections of work at the pool: building envelope, lighting, HVAC, and pool filter and chemical feeder.
The New London Parks and Recreation Committee is expected to review those bids on Dec. 5. The New London City Council would then award the jobs to the lowest bidders on Dec. 12 therefore authorizing the project.
New London Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth said at a parks and recreation committee meeting on Oct. 3 that about $1 million is budgeted for the project. The city will begin bonding for this project in the 2018 budget.
He explained the reasons the upgrades are necessary at the facility, which was built in 1980.
“In general on the HVAC side, pretty much everything’s getting gutted because the mechanical systems are 20 to 30 years old and it needs to be updated,” Hoerth said. “The facility itself structural-wise is not in bad shape, but the mechanical system is where we’re really struggling right now and the need for this whole project.”
Hoerth also shared how he came up with the timing for the closure.
“No. 1, I didn’t want to be closed during the summer because obviously that’s the hot weather,” Hoerth said. “I didn’t want to be closed in the fall because it’s the high school swim season. I didn’t want to say, ‘Sorry guys, we’re not going to have a swim season this year.’ And then in the cold months, it probably wouldn’t be good to have no boiler in the facility during the cold months.”
Committee member and First District Alderman John Faucher later asked: “So the pool would be closed March, April, May? So it’d be about $18,000, $19,000 in lost revenue, but we’re gaining some [by not paying] wages?”
Hoerth said that would be the case, adding that there will be no work for lifeguards during those months because the pool cannot remain open during such an extensive project.
Anyone who has a pool membership during the construction timeframe in spring 2018, however, will have their membership extended after the renovations are done, Hoerth said this week at the November committee meeting on Nov. 6.
Hoerth added during that meeting that one of the two waterslides must be permanently removed in order to accommodate an upgrade to the pool’s filtration system.
“If we want to keep both slides open then we’re going to have to bust open a wall and probably the cost is going to go up, which I don’t think we want to do,” Hoerth said.
He added that the slides is getting old enough that replacement parts are hard to find. The pool could consider putting in a new slide system in the future, he said.
School district contributions
The School District of New London agreed to begin paying an annual $7,000 usage fee for the pool, which will provide the city of New London some extra funding toward the upgrade.
In a memo dated Sept. 29, New London Finance Director Judy Radke stated she and Hoerth met with School District of New London Business Services Director Joe Marquardt in July to discuss the pool’s problems with airflow and equipment needs.
She stated she asked the school district for a $10,000 annual contribution for 10 years to help pay for the upgrade project. She stated the $10,000 was calculated based on the pool’s yearly operation cost and the school’s percentage of usage.
Marquardt suggested the school district’s share be calculated based just on usage and came up with a $7,000 annual contribution, Radke stated.
The city council found this offer to be adequate and approved it unanimously on Oct. 10.
At the Sept. 25 New London School Board meeting, Marquardt said the school district has not contributed money to the pool since students began swimming there. Rather, the district has had an agreement in place with the city that the two entities offer usage of each other’s fields or facilities to one another at no cost.
He said the school district uses the pool for about 125 hours and 2,000 visits annually, and during that time that the city closes the pool to public use.
“As I looked at that, that’s a lot of use,” Marquardt said. “You know, 125 hours and 2,000 visits [are] times that they’re not having the pool open for others, and that’s a revenue loss for them.”
School Board President Kim Schroeder said it is important it is for the city to have a thriving pool and the facility supports the school district’s mission of Success for All Students.
The annual $7,000 contribution will be covered by the school district’s athletic budget.
Scope of pool project
Some of the needs at New London Aquatic and Fitness Center that could be included in the project are:
• New high-efficiency boilers.
• New exhaust fans in the HVAC room.
• Separate thermostats for each locker room, the exercise room and the office. The pool has received many complaints of the women’s locker room being too cold.
• An air handling unit special for the office. The moisture in there is harmful to electronics.
• An internet-connected pool chemical system and HVAC system. Together they would monitor water and air conditions, communicating with one another when something needs to be adjusted. Staff could also get smart phone alerts if something goes wrong.
• Upgraded filtration chemical treatment systems.
• Automatic blankets that would be draped over the pool after hours to keep water temperatures stable, lowering energy costs.
• UV filters in the pool that would kill Cryptosporidium, a microscopic germ that causes diarrhea.
Where the savings may come
Committee member Henrica Bult asked if the facility would realize cost savings from the upgrades given that some components would be energy-efficient.
“Keep in mind the system that you have now is not at the same thresholds of code requirements as what the new system will be,” said Brent Schmidt, program manager for McKinstry, the firm overseeing the pool project. “So you probably won’t see a drastic decrease in energy consumption because we’ll have so much better ventilation in the space.”
Hoerth said there would be tradeoffs. For example, LED lighting and a pool blanket would slash electricity and heating costs, but a new UV filter would consume energy that is not currently being used.
Perhaps the biggest savings would come in is city maintenance crews spending less time at the pool, Hoerth said.
Ted Christian, facilities superintendent for the city of New London, estimated he spends half his week working there.
“If we don’t upgrade these things, we’re going to continue to have a lot of maintenance time spent over there, a lot of maintenance issues,” Hoerth said, “and it’s going to come to the point that we’re not going to be able to put duct tape on this stuff anymore.”