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Carolina Beach Council Votes Down Community Pool Proposal

The Carolina Beach Town Council voted three to two not to move forward with a plan to construct $1.4 million dollar 8-lane 25-yard pool at their April 8th meeting.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council voted three to two at their Tuesday April 8th, meeting not to move forward with a proposed $1.4 million dollar 8-lane 25-yard pool and aquatics center adjacent to the Town's recreation center behind Town Hall on North Lake Park Blvd.
The Council voted three to two with Mayor Dan Wilcox and Council members Leann Pierce and Gary Doetsch voting against the proposal. Council members Steve Shuttleworth and Sarah Friede voted in favor of the plan. In November 2013, the Carolina Beach Town Council approved additional funding for the design of a proposed community pool during their November 12, 2013 meeting.
In April of last year the Carolina Beach Community Pool Steering Committee gave a presentation to the Town Council on a proposal to build a swimming pool adjacent to the Town's Recreation Center behind Town Hall on land already owned by the Town. The Council approved the next step in the process at the April 2013 meeting to complete the final construction drawings and obtain all final bids and structure a loan and terms with the Local Government Commission.
Highlights include a 204,000 gallon, 25 yard, 8-lane, NCAA compliant swimming pool complemented by a zero entry shallow end, ADA accessible ramp, and 9’ diving well. The facility would be open in the Summer and covered by a “bubble” enclosure in the winter for year-round use. Access to the facility will be through the existing rec center entryway and a covered walkway that leads to the pool.  Leveraging the existing check-in desk would reduce the annual admin cost of running the facility. It would also include locker rooms, storage building with an open design, separate admin counter that can be utilized for concessions, and a family changing room.
The facility would be funded by user fees and fees for programs such as water aerobic classes and competitive swimming events including area high schools.
The committee sent out surveys in utility bills and held community meetings including one at the Katie B. Hines Senior Center.
There are two options to pay a fee to use the pool. The base membership at $40 per individual, $60 for a family and then higher non-resident rates. If you are not a frequent user you could just buy punch passes. Punch pass visits would cost about $4 to $5. Another option is to buy a full membership.
The proposed annual membership fees for Carolina Beach residents are $400 for a family, $340 for a senior family, $240 for an individual and $204 for a senior individual. For non-residents, the annual fee would be $520 for a family, $442 for a senior family, $330 for an individual and $281 for a senior individual.
Bids received from contractors range from $1,197,225.00 to $1,645,319.00.
The Ad-Hoc Aquatics Facility Committee will recommend to Council which bid to award the contract.
As of November 2013 the following had been spent:
• $ 3,500.00 Schematic Design Documents- Lisle Architecture
• $ 15,875 Engineering services
• $ 28,448.26 Design Development Documents- Lisle Architecture
• $ 348.94 Additional Printing Fees- Lisle Architecture
• $ 2,000.00 Council Presentation Pool Video- Seven Season Films
• $ 50,172.20 Total spent on pool project
In November the Council approved spending an additional $12,429.76 in order to complete the project design for bid documents, value engineering design and civil changes, bid preparation and negotiation.
Duke Hagestrom - chair of the committee - said, "Thank you for the opportunity to allow this process to happen and for empowering the committee to explore this important project. The only remaining piece of the puzzle was to accurately assess the cost of the project which we did by taking the project out to bid.  Today’s presentation completes the feasibility analysis by adding the construction cost to the work that was already done to establish a community driven design, a financial and operations model, and gauging the level of interest in the community."
He explained, "Bids came back in a range from $1.3 million to $1.57 million.  So, the short answer is that yes, this project is feasible and the cost to build it fits within a financial and operations model that is responsibly conservative.  The community in conjunction with the architectural design firm created a design that works well in the footprint that we explored.  The level of interest in the community was high – every survey and workshop resulted in a majority of the community expressing a desire to add this amenity to our parks and rec program."
He explained, "We engaged in this process as a natural progression of executing the 2008 Parks and Rec master plan.  A swimming pool was the next project on the priority list and it was time to explore the feasibility in a more thorough and responsible manner. An ad hoc committee was appointed over 18 months ago and we were tasked with establishing a design, gauging community support, and assessing the physical and financial feasibility of building a pool."
Hagestrom said, "The first step was to engage the public via workshops and surveys to establish guiding principles for the design of the facility.  Could this project work in the chosen location and could we include elements in the design that were requested and prioritized by the community?  To help answer that question, we engaged the services of an architectural design firm – Lisle Architecture.  Council voted unanimously to work with Lisle and they were given the task of creating a design that could fit within the designated footprint incorporating the design elements requested by the public."
He explained, "The initial design was brought back to the public via additional public workshops and refined based on community feedback.   We also went through a value engineering process of vetting the design with town staff and the design firm to identify improvements and ways to save money on the design of the project.  We also continue to learn more as we go – for example we recently met with a citizen that has demonstrated the importance of adding a low cost copper ionization process that may allow us to save on harsh chemicals and offers the potential to convert the water in the pool to a potable water source in the event of an emergency. The end result is an impressive design that balances the various desires of the community and allows for important revenue streams to sustain financial viability."
He said, "Community support was gauged via surveys and public workshops.  We consistently received survey results that indicated that 55% were in favor of a pool and 45% were against with the exception of an independent Island Gazette survey that stands at 61% in favor and 39% against or undecided (these survey results are still available online).  Although there has been some criticism of both the survey approach and the questions asked, the comments on the survey forms (both for and against the project) indicate that the community is thrilled that they had an avenue and an opportunity to engage in the process – with some refinements, the council should know that the public really appreciates the opportunity to let their voice be heard via these public surveys.  At public workshops, more citizens spoke out in support of the project as opposed to being against the project."
Hagestrom said, "Many groups and individuals reached out to the committee expressing their desire for a pool including a large number of seniors, families, home-school groups, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, affinity groups (such as divers, swimmers, and aerobics), public and private schools, the disabled community, etc.  We also received several letters and emails from citizens that were not in favor of the project.  Some common themes from those included the need for better infrastructure, water quality, and a concern about impact on taxes. Last night the Parks and Rec Committee voted unanimously in support of this project as well."
He said an extensive financial analysis was undertaken that leveraged commercial pool companies and data from other aquatic centers to identify recurring operations expenses. A detailed staffing analysis was conducted to determine labor expenses including data from HR (Human Resources) to ensure “all-in” numbers. The bid results and any additional capital expenditures were plugged into the model to gauge an accurate amortization of the capital outlay. The projections include capital improvement costs so that the model accounts for equipment replacement over time. Membership modeling was done from a variety of angles using a variety of data sources to derive an educated guess at membership revenue.
Hagestrom said, "Conservative estimates of between 30% to 50% of the revenue that other nearby facilities generate were used to project programming revenue. Under our “most-likely” scenario, we project a loss of approximately $15K per year."
He explained, "The decision to move forward with a pool is a bold and aggressive act of leadership that would continue the legacy of Carolina Beach setting a standard for offering facilities and services that enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors. The decision can now be made without the burden of wondering if it can be done; I leave it to your leadership to decide if it should be done. The Ad-Hoc Aquatics Committee is unanimously recommending that the Carolina Beach Town Council consider making a motion to allocate up to $1.4 million dollars to build a Carolina Beach Community Pool and begin the vetting process with Thomas Construction Group and Paragon Building Corporation."
After a lengthy discussion and public comments supporting and opposing the pool, Councilman Gary Doetsch thanked the committee for their work and said, "However, I'm one of those people that think it's going to have to take a back seat for now. At this time I would like to make a motion that we shelve this item until we have a street-paving plan in our capital improvement plan. We certainly have funds for beach renourishment that are guaranteed. Just too many issues right now that I think are going to cost the Town of Carolina Beach to move ahead with this project."
Doetsch said he was talking about a plan to pave streets in the future as needed.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "It's probably no surprise Gary, I won't support your motion. I think it is time. I think some of our speakers spoke eloquently. When is the right time? As we all know you've lived here your entire life. Leann you've been here 20 years. Dan's been here 12, 15, 20 years... 25. There hadn't been a plan. To dredge the lake hasn't happened. All the water lines being replaced hasn't happened. All the sewer lines hasn't happened. But we did build a rec center. We are spending energy and time on the boardwalk and right now we have grant dollars but the likelihood is we are going to end up with public money in there somewhere."
Shuttleworth said, "We do have a plan for capital improvements. I think it's time this Council steps up and makes an investment to the community. To the kids, to the quality of life, to the seniors."
He explained, "I think the time is right. There is never a good time to spend money as a municipality, but you guys spent money the last time you were on Council Gary, finishing the second floor of the rec center. It's been losing three or four hundred thousand dollars a year. Ok. I haven't seen a plan on all these other capital improvements. Dan when you were on Council I didn't see you guys coming up with these long-term plans. You did come up with master plans, you started implementing some of them. The pool has been on the master plan since 2008 or earlier... How long do you want to wait?"
Shuttleworth explained, "The beach nourishment issue. We've been working hard on that" and other issues like funding for dredging the Carolina Beach Inlet and, "It hasn't been in a total vacuum that these decisions are being made and I think it's long past due. I won't support the motion to shelve a plan that has been in the process for over eight years and spent 14 months working all the way through plans and specs."
Council member Leann Pierce said, "I love the idea of a pool. I would like to see it. There are two things that are first and foremost on my mind, well three. One is, a couple of people said maybe we could use a less expensive pool. Those are all things we can look at. I think the numbers are pretty good. But my biggest concern is two things, last Council meeting we had a very emotional plea from residents about the waste transfer station being in their backyards. I have a problem with that. My next question is, where are we going to park the 30 vehicles in the parking lots if we build a pool. We don't have an operations yard. We are paying $3,500 a month to rent at the Food Lion shopping center which could go away at any time. We have to, I think, secure an operations yard."
Shuttleworth said Council should put effort into using existing land off of Dow Road. He said the Town spent $100,000 cleaning up land leased from the military and there's room to relocate the materials stored at the Federal Point Shopping Center to that land which includes a 4,000 square foot building.
Pierce said, "How can I tell residents that smell trash in their backyard that we are going to build a pool while you smell trash all summer. I'm struggling with it because I want the best for everybody."
Council member Sarah Friede said she has confidence in Town staff to solve those issues. She said, "Even though we are being asked to approve more than a million dollars for this, the money will come back to the Town. These other issues, paving the streets, the water and sewer, the waste transfer station. We have funds in the utility fund to pave the streets. We've got the money and we know that the income will continue to come in for water and sewer."
She said, "At some point I think there is more to living in a Town than just covering the problems" and, "That's one of the functions of government but I also think there is delivering more to the citizens. Yes getting the waste transfer station out of your backyard would be great but having a facility like this in a community that is blossoming the way that few communities in this country are I think is something that we can look to for the next 50 years and say this was a vision and we found it in the budget and made it happen."
Doetsch said, "Right now a pool is not at the top of my priority list."
Mayor Dan Wilcox said, "My position hasn't changed since I ran for office. I felt this was a good project. It would be a good project two years from now. I didn't think this was the time for it. My recommendation was to keep the committee active. To have them work with the parks and rec department to update our master plan to include a pool concept... to use that master plan to look for grant monies and at the same time take another look at the design of the pool, not abandon what they've done, but take another look and come up with an option. I don't think the citizens I'm hearing from want just one option. They would like to see another option. Something like what was described earlier, more of a community type pool" rather than an intense focus on exercise.
Wilcox said, "I think one measure for me... if its a money making project you're going to see the private sector doing it. I'm not seeing the private sector out there building pools."
He said, "There are a lot of unknowns" regarding the revenues paying for the project.

Additional documents included in the Council agenda for the April 8th meeting.

The following is a narrative provided in the agenda by the Pool Committee:

The Aquatic Steering Committee was appointed on October 2012 at Council's direction
to examine the feasibility of building a community pool that would meet the primary
needs of the citizens of Carolina Beach. Additionally, the committee was charged
with making recommendations regarding the construction, operation, and programming
of a pool located at the Town of Carolina Beach Recreation Center. The Committee has
worked diligently over an 18 month period and engaged in extensive public
consultation including surveys, public meetings, a social media page, and newspaper
and email notices.

Community Pool Project Timeline
2008 - Carolina Beach Parks and Recreation Master Plan recommends the construction
of a pool as a high priority item.
September 2012 - Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously approves moving forward
with research regarding the feasibility of this project. Council also approves
$30,000.00 in expenses for initial design and planning.
October 2012 - Carolina Beach Ad Hoc Aquatic Steering Committee is appointed.
November 2012 - After reviewing several proposals, Lisle Architecture and Design is
engaged for initial Design and Planning.
December 2012 - Committee presented an update to the Carolina Beach Town Council
regarding initial cost estimate.
January 2013 - Public forums are held at Town of Carolina Beach Recreation Center
and the Katie B. Hines Senior Center. Project design, feasibility, and community
support are discussed.
May 2013 - Initial findings presented to Town Council. Additional $21,000.00
approved by Town Council to complete the design and prepare for open bid.
September 2013 - Construction Drawings and Site Plan are completed by Lisle
Architecture and Design.
September 2013 - Three additional public forums are held to review pool design and
ascertain community support for the project. Two meetings are held at the Carolina
Beach Recreation Center. One meeting is held at Katie B. Hines Senior Center.
November 2013 - Value Engineering meetings are held to ensure fiscal responsibility
for the project.
December 2013 - Bid Documents prepared and advertised to the public.
February 2014 - Bidding closed. Bids received and reviewed.

Ad-Hoc Aquatics Facility Committee Findings

This committee has sought out the opinions of our citizens through a variety of
avenues. Initial open forums were used to get an idea of what kind of facility
residents wanted. There were also comments about the pool design on the returned
surveys. The community's opinion for potential uses of a community pool varied a
great deal. Desired uses included recreation, therapeutic, and fitness, with an
emphasis on water safety training. The common theme among most responses and
communication to the committee was that members would like a pool that was not a
significant burden to the taxpayers of Carolina Beach.

In order to design a pool that would meet the many needs of the community and allow
for enough revenue streams to give the project a chance to be self-sustaining (no
tax payer burden) we feel it is necessary to build a year round multi-use facility.
This premise and the various uses requested by the community drove the current
design of the pool.

Cost of project

Since November 2012 the committee has worked with Lisle Architecture and Design in
carefully planning this project. Our goal was to keep costs as low as possible
while producing a facility that was practical, useful, and something that the
citizens of Carolina Beach can be proud of.

Please find attached ITEM A - Bid Summary Spreadsheet

Cost of Operation

Over the past 18 months the committee has reviewed all of the potential expenses for
this facility. Each expense has been vetted and compared to pools of similar size
within the local area. The committee has been careful to make sure each number is
conservative and to account for a worst case scenario. Throughout the expense model
you will see where the committee accounted for capital improvements over the life of
the project such as replacement of the bubble enclosure, pump replacement, etc.

Please find attached ITEM B - Swimming Pool Financial Analysis


The design of the pool is based on features requested by the community. These
features also provide vital revenue streams through programming/activities. The
committee made sure that there was enough room for each program/ activity without
sacrificing accessibility for the community.

Please find attached ITEM B - Swimming Pool Financial Analysis
Please find attached ITEM C - Swimming Pool Revenue Sources

Demand for Services

Many committee hours were spent debating potential membership for the pool. A
precise number can not be ascertained prior to committing to this project. However,
using empirical data, a revenue model was built to reflect an educated assumption of
what we feel the demand for services will be.

The two surveys that were sent out showed over 55% approval rating among Carolina
Beach residents. The majority of the residents that attended the five open forums
were in favor of the pool and its design.
Please find attached ITEM D - Membership Modeling

Overall Budget

Please find attached ITEM E - Best Case, Most Likely Case, Worst Case

Potential Risks

There are obvious liability exposures when operating a pool. These can be handled
by policy and procedure along with additional insurance.

Financial Concerns: The pool committee has been dedicated to providing a financial
model that produces a self sustaining model that does not become a burden to the tax
payers. Although we feel it is likely that participation and membership can cover
the overall costs, this is not a guarantee, and therefore represents a risk to the
citizens of Carolina Beach.

Potential Benefits

The benefits to our community are vast. Each generation of citizens can find
enjoyment with a multi-use pool that is open year round:
Residents, which include youth, seniors, families, and people with disabilities,
would be able to learn to swim and become strong swimmers. This is vitally
important in our community for obvious safety issues with having an ocean nearby.
Community swim teams and leagues can be formed. There would also be opportunities to
use the pool for low impact exercise such as water aerobics, physical therapy,
rehabilitation, and recreational swimming. Families would have additional
year-round activities, such as birthday parties, night swims, movie nights,
recreational swimming, and camp opportunities.
Carolina Beach Lifeguards will be able to complete necessary training without
renting pool time at facilities in Wilmington. Additionally, the pool can offer
ongoing training programs so that new lifeguards can be trained and all current
lifeguards can maintain the swimming prerequisites of the program year-round.
With an addition of a community pool the Carolina Beach Recreation Center will
become more popular, which will increase the membership base. With additional
members, especially from the pool, the Parks and Recreation Department will shift to
a new paradigm by replacing a larger percentage of expenses with revenue.


The design and total budget for this program has been thoroughly researched over the
last year and a half. The committee believes that the potential benefits outweigh
the potential risks.

Additional Documents

ITEM F - Full Design Swimming Pool Bid Set
ITEM G - Frequently Asked Questions
ITEM H - Projected Staffing Cost