Construction of Sidney aquatic center OK'd

Council votes 3-2 to proceed with $5.4 million project


For The Sun-Telegraph

A rendering of the new aquatic center in Sidney shows a lap pool and 20-foot slide that will be part of the $5.4 million project.

After five years of discussion and planning, construction on a new outdoor municipal swimming pool in Sidney was authorized by the City Council on Tuesday night.

The 3-2 vote paves the way for the project to became a reality, clearing its last significant bureaucratic hurdle.

Councilors Chris Gay and Wendall Gaston and Mayor Mark Nienhueser voted in favor, while Councilors Roger Gallaway and Joe Arterburn voted against the motion.

Construction on the $5.4 million aquatic center is expected to begin this month said project manager Derek Breier. The facility is scheduled to be open by May 24, 2016 – in time for Memorial Day weekend.

The price tag on the project has increased in past months as design plans were drafted. In February, the project had a budget of $4 million. Later, it was announced the city had been offered a challenge grant: if $750,000 in community donations were gathered, the project would receive $250,000. While that fundraising campaign continues, the expected additional $1 million was added to the project's budget.

But councilors learned at a meeting last month that costs had crept another $400,000 higher.

A majority of the pool's funding is expected to be paid from Sidney's special infrastructure sales tax, in addition to $600,000 from the city's general fund.

The aquatic center will include a lap pool, leisure pool with lazy river, a 20-foot slide, five geysers and other water features and amenities. The complex will also have locker rooms, a concession stand and a pump room.

On Tuesday, referring to a public comment earlier in the meeting asking why the existing pool shut down so early this season, Arterburn asked if the new complex would be open longer.

City Manager Gary Person responded that is the goal.

"To spend that kind of investment, we would like to use it as much as we can," he said. "Maybe with Labor Day being the target."

This year, the majority of pool staff are either students or teachers, he explained, and when they go back to school, it's difficult to find other workers.

Near the end of the meeting, Gallaway said he supports the pool but is concerned about the cost increases.

"We have a responsibility to citizens to make sure we can complete the project," he said. "$400,000 is a big shortfall."

Arteburn echoed his concerns.

"I'm not against the swimming pool, I just think there's a lot of questions," Arterburn said.

The facility is needed, he added, but he wanted to see a better organized plan.

Also at the meeting:

• Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce President Glenna Aurich presented a budget request to councilors. She offered the chamber's annual report and highlighted events the organization sponsors and its contributions to the community.

"There's so many good things happening in Sidney, and we are proud to be a part of it," she said.

The chamber requested $15,000 to help support its operations and $5,000 for the High Plains Compass, an online recruitment tool.

Nienhueser said the council would take the request under consideration as it finalizes the budget.

• A public hearing was conducted on a proposed municipal landscaping ordinance. The ordinance was drafted by the Planning Commission after more than a year of research.

The rules would apply to new construction begun after the adoption of the ordinance, substantial expansions – exceeding 1,000 square feet – to existing buildings or significant changes to the use of a property – such as a former retail store being converted to a café.

Single- and two-family dwellings, properties within the City Historic District and property lines abutting railroad rights of way would be exempt.

Many other communities in the Panhandle have similar ordinances, Sidney Zoning Administrator Ben Dayton said.

The proposed ordinance unanimously passed its first of three readings. Nienhueser encouraged community members to review the regulations before its final reading next month.

• Councilors unanimously voted to authorize re-bids for infrastructure installation at the Sidney Business Park. Jack Baker, of Baker & Associates, said in July, only one bid was received for each the proposed water and sewer projects at the site, and they were above the engineer's estimates.

The design has since been revised to make the improvements easier and less costly to construct, he explained, and wanted authorization to again solicit bids.

Councils agreed to accept bids until Sept. 3 and award the project on Sept. 8.

• A budget workshop is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council room at City Hall. The next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 7:15 p.m. in the City Council room at City Hall.

For The Sun-Telegraph

The aquatic center, which is scheduled to be open by Memorial Day 2016, was approved by a 3-2 vote at Tuesday night's Sidney City Council meeting.


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