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In too deep?

City shouldn’t dive right in with pool project’s cost rising

Published: Friday, March 2, 2012 9:00 a.m. CST

While the city of Morris has been hoping to make a big splash with its much-needed and long-overdue pool renovation project, the fact the costs are rising to new heights should be enough to keep the city from jumping in with both feet.

We are not saying the city should abandon the project entirely, but we do believe that, like any good homeowner or business met with unexpected costs, it should examine ways to stay within its budget.

The problem is the city is facing — and has already approved spending — an additional $87,052.80 because the material underneath the pool is too soft to support a concrete foundation.

It was reported at the last city council meeting that, as a result, about 1,200 cubic yards of the silted material must be excavated and about 2,500 tons of stone brought in.

That added cost comes on top of an earlier decision to add new lights to enable night swimming at an added cost of more than $50,000.

All told, the project that was originally budgeted for $1.5 million, has gone through a $200,000 contingency with bids coming in higher than estimated, and has continued to climb another $200,000 to a current price tag of $1.9 million.

Any homeowner or for-profit business, when faced with these types of cost overruns on a project, would be forced to re-evaluate what it is they are doing.

We know that we, as homeowners with finite amounts of money coming in each paycheck, only have so much money to spend each month or year on projects or home improvements.

If we plan on building a deck on the back of a home, for instance, and determine we can spend $3,000 on the project that is the amount, in most cases, we have to spend. If, while building that deck, we discover a crack in the foundation of our home that is going to cost $1,000 to repair, most of us are not going to make the repair and continue on with our $3,000 deck project.

Instead, we would be forced to either delay or cut back on the deck project to compensate for the reduction in available funds. We may opt to build a smaller deck, eliminate the bump-out for the grill or maybe decide to wait a year before adding the pergola or an awning to our outdoor respite.

We believe the city of Morris should do the same.

While we realize a smaller pool is not necessarily a good option, eliminating the lights for night swimming — a luxury that has not been available at the Morris Municipal Pool in all the years it has been providing summer fun — would seem to be a viable cost-saving measure.

Or, the city could decide to proceed with the reconstruction of the pool, but hold off until a future year on the installation of diving boards and a water slide. If that does not bring the project back into line with its budget, a move could easily be made to delay final build out of the splash pad that is intended to become the modern alternative to a kiddie pool.

Another option would be to consider, now that extensive excavating must be done anyway, abandoning the current site of the pool.

As Alderman Hansen has noted, in addition to the silting problem, the pool is situated in a floodplain. That fact has resulted in the facility being flooded numerous times through the year as the nearby creek has swollen out of its banks and has resulted in designs for the renovated pool including systems that can withstand the flooding.

With $1.9 million, it is entirely possible — although we must admit that we have never priced out a municipal swimming pool — that a new facility could be built elsewhere in the park or on another parcel of city-owned property.

It may not save money now and bring the project back within budget, but it could prove to be a significant money saver each time the creek rises and the city pool doesn’t have to be cleaned up and rehabbed as a result.

The Morris Daily Herald Editorial Board is led by Publisher Gerry Burke and editors Patrick Graziano and Mark Malone. It makes its editorial decisions in consultation with other members of the Herald staff.

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