Update: (Audio) Demolition of Viroqua’s old outdoor pool back on agenda

| July 30, 2014
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Audio report from News Director Tim Hundt:

The City Council has the possible demolition of the old outdoor pool back on its agenda for tonight’s city council meeting. The pool has been closed for about 10 years and the city brought up demolishing the structure last year, that caused a citizens group to form asking that the city consider refurbishing and reopening the old pool. The city asked a pool company to study the possible cost to refurbish that pool and the report was delivered to the city in march. The results of the report and subsequent discussion can be found below but the city once again is looking at the option of demolishing the old pool.


Previous story  5-24-14 On Monday the Viroqua city council received a report from a consultant about the cost to refurbish/rebuild the old outdoor pool near downtown. Last fall after a number of citizens came forward the city of Viroqua hired a company to study what it would take to revive or rebuild the cities old outdoor pool. Dave Burbach of Burbach Aquatics of Platteville told the council it would cost the city about $2.7 million to refurbish the existing pool. Burbach also recommended that the city look at other options, since he could not guarantee the city would get 25 years of use from a remodeled pool. View a copy of  Burbach’s report here

  You can listen to Burbach’s entire presentation to the city council here: ———————————————————————————————- Previous story – August 1, 2013 The Viroqua City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to continue to look into the possibility of reopening the City’s outdoor pool. The council voted to accept a proposal from Burbach Aquatics of Platteville, WI for $1,750 to conduct a study of what it would take to revive the pool that has been shut down since 2004. The pool closed mainly for economic reasons and also partly because the the Bigely indoor pool attached to the high school opened in 2003. The outdoor pool was losing between $16,000 and $40,000 a year back then and an engineering study was conducted in 2001 that said it would take about $400,000 to bring the pool up to code. Attendance was also falling going from an average of 13,000 users in the late 1990s to around six or seven thousand by 2004. A group of city residents led by Viroqua businesswoman and chairperson of the Historic Preservation Commission, Nancy Rhodes, has been meeting since last fall to discuss how to get the old pool up and running again. The group has been circulating a petition to have the council look at the cost to reopen the pool and renovate the bathhouse.  The petition also asks the council to delay demolition of the pool for two years. Rhodes said the group know as the Friends of the Viroqua Bathhouse and Pool have gathered over 1,000 signatures in just a few weeks. “It’s a valuable asset economically to this community,” Rhodes said. “Where it sits next to downtown is a very viable, necessary economic issue for our downtown.” Nancy Rhodes 7-31-13 Ann Morrison grew up in Viroqua and spent most of her summers at the old outdoor pool and told the council on Tuesday she does not want to see the city miss an opportunity like they did in the 1970s to develop a bike trail in conjunction with the Sparta Bike Trail. “I urge this committee,” Morrison said. “The City Council to listen to its constituents. We want to at least find out what whether this is feasible or not. We don’t want to make the same mistake again and just it off and not explore the elements.” Ann Morrison – Outdoor Pool 7-31-13 There are a number of other factors complicating the revival of the old pool even if the cost to bring it up to code turns out to be reasonable. The first hurdle is that  the city has sold a portion of the pool property to the Eagles Club located next door. The northern most portion of the lot from the deep end of the pool to the lot line now belongs to the Eagles. The land would need to the sold back to the city even if the cost of renovation is not prohibitive. Another factor that could hinder the revival effort is the pools location. There are some who would rather see a new pool built in another location with more room and more modern features. Alderman Terry Noble of the Viroqua City Council has been one of the most vocal people in the community trying to get an outdoor pool back but is not necessarily in favor of getting an outdoor pool back. Noble is supportive of any effort to get some type of outdoor pool but he is not optimistic about the cost to get the old pool back in operation. Noble said if the estimates come back in the hundreds of thousands like before he would rather see the energy and money put toward a new pool. Terry Noble – enerygy toward new aquatic center] Noble has long advocated for a modern pool with water park type features found in aquatic centers in other communities like Holmen and La Crosse. Noble contends aquatic centers with those types of features drive attendance up and could possibly bring enough users to break even. City pools almost always lose money and to break even is success in the pool business. Noble says the logical location for such a modern pool would be next to the existing Bigley indoor pool that was built with the idea in of having an outdoor pool next to it. The mechanical systems have been stubbed out to connect to an outdoor pool and the bathrooms designed to accommodate users of two pools. In a recent interview Noble said he would be in favor of reopening the old pool if it were a temporary solution to get to a new pool and the provided the cost was not so high it hurts the effort to build a new facility. But Noble also cautioned that any decision to revive the pool cannot be made in a vacuum. Noble said the reopening of the outdoor would likely impact the Bigley Pool and everyone has to be mindful of that. “Everybody has to understand that the Bigley Pool is open over there because of the donations from the hospital (Vernon Memorial Hospital) to keep it open and because people are going there,” Noble said. “It is open from May to September. If you open the outdoor pool up there they are going to have virtually no income from the Bigely Pool and is the hospital now suppose to make up that difference so now they should be funding the whole thing? It’s more likely that that building would have to close and everybody would have to figure what we are going to do. I don’t believe we can look at the outdoor pool in a vacuum that way. I believe we always have to look at it because I think it would be an embarrassment or shameful to have to close a pool that was donated by Mr. Bigley that has done all this stuff for our town to simply close that pool. I think we owe it to him for everything he has done to the community and owe it to everybody else to not look at that outdoor pool in a vacuum. You have to consider the indoor pool as well.” Terry Noble – effect on Bigley Pool Noble has also reminded those leading the most recent charge to revive the pool that a study to restore the pool was done in 2001 and a committee was formed to examine pool options. That committee determined the old pool was not worth repairing and a location study determined a new pool should be built next to the Bigley Pool. Preliminary designs for a new pool were drawn up but the third phase of actually raising funds for that new pool never got off the ground. The cost of building a new “aquatic center” type of pool in 2004 was between $2.5 million and $3 million. Noble also said he is hopeful no matter path is chosen that the energy going in the current drive to get a pool back is not lost and it can be directed toward the effort build  a new pool. Terry Noble on reviving old viroqua pool Noble went on to say that the effort to build a new poll took a backseat when the McIntosh Memorial library decided to build a new building in the last couple of years. Noble said the logical time to begin looking at a new outdoor pool would be in 2017 when the city will have paid off some long term bonds and the city could then look at borrowing for a pool and continue the same level of long term debt with little or no change to the city budget. Terry Noble – long term debt The Friends of the Viroqua Bathhouse and Pool  have a website with information about their efforts at www.viroquamunicipalswimmingpool.com

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