Pool closure could last eight weeks

Swimming laps at the community center will have to take an eight-week break starting in September if all goes as planned.      At the City Council meeting on Monday night it was merely an item on the consent agenda – an agenda that was surprisingly approved as is – but as a whole, a community center improvement project is one that is going to affect citizens around town.
While the line item “consideration of tabling Change Order #1 for the Monticello Community Center Natatorium Improve-ments” is just a small part of what’s about to happen at the MCC, it tells the tale of a bigger story.
Starting July 20, renovation work will begin at the MCC. Around Labor Day it will become a lot more noticeable. The pool is scheduled to close on Sept. 4 for nearly two months as the mechanical system, which has been causing problems since the pool opened, is replaced, and numerous other projects are tackled.
Other projects that will be worked on during this time are: replacing the air handling system; taking out a large portion of the window wall on the south side and replacing it with a block wall and translucent windows; repainting the ceiling; rebuilding the top of the slide; replacing all pool and locker room doors; and residing the exterior around the pool area and some roof repairs in the same area.
The ceiling repair was the line item at the council meeting on Monday. The tabling of the change order was approved as they await the final numbers on what the cost would be to sand blast and paint the entire ceiling versus just a certain portion.
That decision could delay the reopening of the pool from the end of October to late November.
The decision, as well as the improvements, is seen as painful, but necessary by both community center and city staff.
Community Center Director Kitty Baltos is “bummed” about the loss of the large glass wall on south side of the pool. Her concern is the customer.
But Mayor Clint Herbst and the rest of the city council must be concerned with the bottom dollar, and the city was just losing too much money with operating costs going through the roof in the pool area. The glass wall allows the sun to bake the pool deck in the summer, making it exponentially more difficult to air condition, and it is less resistant to cold air in the winter than the planned new block wall.
“I don’t think anyone is too happy about it,” said Herbst, of the project at large. “But what everyone is going to get in return is going to be a much better project.”
While the new window will be more efficient, the new mechanical system promises to help better maintain a building that was seeing siding coming off its walls inside the pool room due to faults of the old system.
But even though those changes will make up the bulk of this project, it is another change that has Baltos the most excited.
The upstairs fitness center is set to add almost 1,800 square feet. The center is doing this by adding a second floor over the main hallway immediately adjacent to the current fitness center.
“We’ve been trying to increase the fitness center for some time,” said Baltos.
Doing so will allow them to bring in an influx of new equipment, which is expected to arrive in early 2013. The center hopes it will open more space for classes on the second floor, as well as give additional space to the fitness center’s users, so they aren’t cramped next to each other while working out.
On Aug. 20, they plan to begin to erect steel supports for the Fitness Center addition. The west entrance to the Community Center will be closed while the steel is being set. However, Baltos said she has been promised that the fitness center will not need to close during this project, something that is of top priority to her.
“My biggest concern of course is our customers,” said Baltos. “I hate being closed at all. If someone could just blink their eyes and make this happen, I would be eternally grateful.”
In other business, the board:
•Heard an update on the city’s TIF (tax increment finance) Management Plan from Northland Securities, who the council asked to check the progress on the different TIFs the city still has in place. The council voted unanimously to ratify the EDA’s decision to adopt the 2012 TIF Management Plan. They also learned that they have to make a decision on a couple of TIFs that expire in the next couple years, specifically whether they want to use the money generated by those TIFs on the specific funds that it’s assigned to, or give it back to the county where 59 percent of it will be earmarked to go toward county, school and hospital funds, while the city gets 41 percent back in its general fund.
•Heard an update on action by the EDA and was asked to consider the commercial property purchase of Lot 2, Block 1, Jefferson Commons 1st addition (adjacent to Applebees). Mike Krutzig originally bought this land from the city for $1 million in 2005, but after not being able to lock down a developer, was looking for the city to buy it back for a couple of years – at a lower price of $670,000 – until he can pay the city back (with 7 percent interest, and pay back all taxes previously paid on it by the city). If he can’t pay the city back within two years, then the city will own the property. Originally, the city had asked the EDA to look and see if it’s a purchase they would be interested in making. After the EDA declined, it was back at the City Council for a decision on Monday. After an intense discussion between Mayor Clint Herbst and council member Glen Posusta about whether the city should be buying more property, the matter went to vote, where the decision to buy it was approved 3-2.
Brian Stumpf, Llyod Hilgart and Herbst all voted in favor of the purchase, with Stumpf calling the purchase a “win-win for the city and the developer.” Posusta and Tom Perrault were dissenting as they were worried about setting a precedent, and Posusta didn’t believe the council should be purchasing any more property – something they’ve received grief for in the past.
“I agree that the city shouldn’t be buying property,” said Herbst, a day after the meeting. “But, this is a good opportunity for us.”
“It’s a tough one, either way. That’s why they end up 3-2.”