Council OKs aquatic center

– With one dissenting vote, the Morgan Hill City Council voted
Wednesday to take the next step in building an aquatic complex by
awarding construction bids that came in approximately $2 million
over estimates.
MORGAN HILL – With one dissenting vote, the Morgan Hill City Council voted Wednesday to take the next step in building an aquatic complex by awarding construction bids that came in approximately $2 million over estimates.

The center is to be built next to the current soccer complex on Condit Road, south of Barrett Avenue and east of U.S. 101.

Councilman Steve Tate voted against awarding the bids.

The council approved six actions: adopting the project budget of $12.9 million and approving the plans and specifications; awarding the general contractor package base bid to Gonsalves & Stronck in the amount of $46,354,600; awarding the pools package base bid phase 2 to California Commercial Pools in the amount of $2.3 million; authorizing the city manager to execute a consultant agreement with Biggs, Cardosa Associates, Inc. for construction testing and inspection; and allocate $1 million of park development funds toward the purchase of land for the complex.

According to current design, the complex will have recreational pools, a “sprayground” interactive water feature, a 50-meter competition pool, locker rooms and picnic areas.

The complex is scheduled for a grand opening on May 28, 2004. Construction will begin next month.

According to the staff report, if the complex is to be ready by that date, the base bid contracts needed to be awarded Wednesday night.

“I can’t support this,” Tate said. “I think we’re really hurting ourselves with this deadline.”

Tate would not support the project at the expense of other city projects and is concerned by the accelerated pace.

Members of the community interested in seeing the aquatics complex move forward stayed during the lengthy discussions on other items in order to hear council’s decision and to be heard.

“We have seen the number of swimmers, both children and adults, increase dramatically with the promise of a new complex down the road,” said Cindy Acevedo, a longtime supporter of the complex. “We are literally swimming from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (at the Britton Middle School and Live Oak High pools). It is extremely crowded, but we’re getting through with the anticipation that the new aquatics center will be ready next year.”

John Ricks with the Aquatics Foundation said the organization is committed to assisting the city with the complex but that the sooner it is completed the better.

“I would strongly encourage you to keep the project on schedule,” he said. “With a minimum of 400 children and adults using the two school district pools, it becomes challenging to find a time to schedule practices. And we’ll be down to one pool in the fall: the school district plans to (demolish) the Britton Pool, it’s on the agenda for the next school board meeting.”

The Aquatics Foundation is helping out by raising money with various events.

“We’re 22 percent of the way there today,” Rick said. “We’ll have $1 million in the bank by the fall. … We’ll be flexible and work with the city to determine what will be the best use of the funds we raise.”

City staff and the aquatics subcommittee met Monday to come up with recommendations for cost-cutting and funding after the bids came in approximately $2 million over original estimates of $8.1 million.

The additional $1 million from the park development fund was one of the recommendations, as well as over $1 million in value engineering or delayed project components identified by the contractors.

City Manager Ed Tewes and Mayor Dennis Kennedy have said that an arrangement with the Aquatics Foundation to take over operation of the complex during low-usage months could be negotiated.

Council-watcher Mark Grzan cautioned council members about moving ahead with an aggressive timetable.

“This is a significant project, it’s over budget and the mayor guaranteed it would not be over budget,” he said. “I challenge this council to find any pool in the area that makes money. … What you’re building is a regional facility.”

Grzan said even if the city could make money by hosting competitions, if the events were held often enough to make money, local residents would stay away from the complex. He told the council they had some options to consider.

“You could delete the 50-meter (competition) pool, so the complex would be more recreational in nature and you would save money,” he said. “You could build the pool at the Sobrato site. … The city of Sunnyvale, which has a population of over 100,000 and has had for 50 years, is just now building its first 50-meter pool.”

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