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VFW pool likely out of commission for 2019

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – Teens who plan on earning a few dollars next summer lifeguarding at the VFW Park swimming pool might want to consider making other plans.

At the Sept. 20 parks meeting it was learned that it doesn’t look likely that a pool will be open next summer.

The De Pere Board of Park Commissioners will recommend to the Common Council that they wait until after the

Nov. 6 referendum before deciding what direction the repairs to the pool’s dive well should go.

“The binding referendum is out there and will help guide the city as to the next step to take with the VFW pool, and we would recommend that you don’t make a decision until the results come in,” said De Pere Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Marty Kosobucki.

The $12.4 million referendum will ask taxpayers to pay an extra $46 per year in property taxes for each $100,000 in assessed property value, to transform the city’s two public swimming pools – the VFW Park pool on the west side and Legion Park pool on the east side – into small aquatic facilities.

The VFW pool cracked and shifted in multiple places late this summer during the emptying and cleaning process, resulting in huge craters.

“When staff opened the relief valve, the (concrete) dive well just popped up out of the ground,” Kosobucki said.
The going hypothesis is that pressure from excess groundwater caused the cataclysm.

Why there would have been excess groundwater remains a mystery, since for weeks before the time of draining, the area experienced near-drought conditions, he said.

There didn’t seem to be a leak in the pool, either, he said, as water gauges registered no more than the typical amount of daily water loss that occurs in the usual splashing about and use of the pool.

The dive well probably can’t be repaired, per se, but remedying the problem would involve replacing the dive well portion of the pool, to the tune of between $700,000 and $800,000, according to Kosobucki.

Either way, whether the referendum passes and the pools are made into aquatic facilities or the referendum  fails and the city decides to replace the VFW pool’s dive well, it’s not likely that the west side will have a pool next summer.

“In order for us to have pool up and running, we would have to start working right now,” Kosobucki said.

The dive well would have to be designed, an engineer would need to be found, contracts would need to be drawn, bids would need to be taken, and there’s no guaranteeing the bid-winning contractor would be available to start working right away in spring.

“The market for pool contractors is tough; there aren’t many pool contractors out there, and a lot of times they are booked several years out,” Kosobucki said.

It’s also not certain that the diving boards could be put back the way they are.

“Right now the deep well we have is not to code for those diving boards, so if we make it to reconstruction, (the contractor) thinks there’s a very good chance the state would say you have to redesign the deep well, and if we have to redesign the deep well, there’s going to be a whole different cost,” Kosobucki said.

The chance of the pool being complete and open by next summer is slim to none, he said.

“The more likely case is that we would have something ready for 2020,” Kosobucki said.

Parks Commissioner Bill Volpano suggested that without a pool on the west side next summer, the city might have to think about providing a bus service to shuttle westside kids to the eastside pool for their swimming lessons.

The absence of a westside pool next summer is going to be felt, said Alderman Larry Lueck.

“My thought is that staff needs to start thinking we will not have the VFW pool next year, and what does that do for swimming lessons, what does that do for lifeguards, what does that do for operations?” Lueck said.

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