By Patrick McArdle
Renovations at White’s Pool in Rutland could begin as early as June, now that a design that keeps both pools has been finalized and bids to do the work have been solicited, according to Cindi Wight, superintendent of the city’s recreation department.
After a bond vote in 2015, the city has $2.3 million to devote to the project. Wight said she’s hoping bids will come in at $2.2 million or less.
“It’s going to be a pool that the community is going to take great pride in,” Wight said. “It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be the pool that they were hoping to get the first time that they voted,” Wight said.
The latest design for the pool is only slightly different from what was proposed before the 2016 Town Meeting, according to Wight.
There will still be a slide in the family pool, but it will be smaller than originally planned, and the diving board added to the competition pool will no longer be separated from the rest of the pool as had been proposed.
While there was some discussion earlier this year of building only one pool, the current plan still calls for two.
The competition pool will have space for six lanes when used by the Rutland Recreation Department’s swim team for meets, as well as a lane that can be set aside for swimming laps, even when the pool is in general public use.
The family pool will have a zero-entry area that allows users to enter the pool by a slope, simulating entry from a beach instead of just diving into the pool at normal depth. The family pool will have space for its own dedicated lanes that can be used for swim lessons and adult fitness classes.
Last Thursday, contractors who planned to enter bids for the construction came to a meeting at the site of the existing pool.
Wight said there were five contractors, two excavating companies and two pool companies, even though the meeting was called for general contractors. She said she knew of a few more pool companies that might offer to join the general contractor who wins the bid, which she hoped might give the city a more competitive price.
The pool project has been a challenge for the city.
After the bond was approved, engineers designed a project that would replace the existing pools and the bathhouse, but the lowest construction bids came back about $1 million over the estimated cost.
Wight said with five bids coming in at similar prices, city officials realized the problem wasn’t with the contractors, but with the original engineering estimates.
The project was revisited by the Board of Aldermen and its recreation committee in an effort to find a way forward that delivered the improvement to the city’s pool at a cost close to what voters approved.
“The determination was, rather than scaling this project way back and still having the bathhouse and still having the pool for $2.3 million, the board said, ‘We want a pool. We’ll figure the bathhouse out, whether we go back to the voters or we look for volunteers or we renovate the existing bathhouse, whatever we do, but we want our $2.3 (million) to go into our pool,’” Wight said.
With a new design and a construction plan in place, bids for the work are due back on April 25. They will be opened April 26, with a goal of awarding the bids on May 10.
Wight said the next challenge will be to look at the future of the bathhouse. After last year’s higher-than-expected construction bids came in, volunteers with some design and construction experience offered to look at the bathhouse to decide if it could be renovated or needed to be completely rebuilt.
After hearing from the volunteers, Wight said she will go back to Mayor David Allaire and the Board of Aldermen to begin a discussion about that phase of the plan.
Even if all goes well, the new pools are not expected to open until 2018.
Wight said that means losing another season, like the recreation department did in 2015 and 2016, but said her department appreciated the support from Rutland Town, which accommodated Rutland City swimmers for a reduced price and hosted the Rutland Recreation swim team.