BICKNELL — Swimland won't open this year, city officials say.
Mayor Thomas Estabrook spoke with members of the city council during their regular monthly meeting Monday about the status of the swimming pool at 400 Pool Drive.
The pool was shut down by county health officials after being cited on 24 infractions that included the lack of a certified pool operator and a decision to use chlorine tablets to make up for a faulty automatic chlorinator.
The pool was also docked for not having certain signage.
But the report's primary concerns were the lack of record keeping of ongoing pool water rests.
Swimland was built, in large part, as a grassroots effort by community leaders back in 1963 and has always been run by a separate, independent board of directors.
A year ago, leaders said it was likely cost prohibitive to make good on all the infractions cited in the report, despite their best efforts to do so.
So the pool remained closed, and Estabrook says it will stay that way.
“It's come down to the simple fact that the pool is at a place where the costs to get it where it needs to be are astronomically high,” he said.
City officials did, he added, do some investigating into what it would cost to fix the pool and reopen it. After speaking with design consultants, contractors and municipalities with new pools, their best guess is that it would cost upwards of $400,000.
“Every time we turned around, it got more expensive,” he said.
So they're looking now to a more cost-effective solution.
Estabrook spoke to city council members Monday about an effort being led, in part, by city councilman Rod Mullins in constructing a splash pad at South Side Park.
Much like the effort to build Swimland nearly 60 years ago, they hope to look to the community for help.
“Rod is in talks with business owners, and he's willing to donate his own time as well,” Estabrook said. “(City crews) could help with the water utilities. We just feel confident it's something we could get done on our own dime and relatively cheap.”
Officials in Vincennes last year included a splash pad in a more than $350,000 effort to spruce up Four Lakes Park. The baseball-themed pad itself cost upwards of $100,000, but Estabrook is hoping to do it for far less in Bicknell.
“We can have some (water feature) made by local businesses,” he said. “We compared prices with the one Vincennes put in, but they used a professional designer, contracted the work out.
“We won't do that, so we feel like we can get it for a lot less.”
And if they're able to pull it off, Estabrook hopes it's a much easier option for city officials to maintain in the coming years.
“It's certainly not going to be equal to Swimland, but I think, in the summertime, it could be a place of real interest, one we can manage and maintain without a great deal of cost and effort.”
And constructing a splash pad, Estabrook said, is also an attempt at making the city more attractive to young people. It speaks to a “broader overall strategy,” he said, of achieving continued growth.
“Amenities like that attract young people, families,” he said. “And we're starting to learn, as we've cleaned up properties, that a lot of houses that were once empty are now occupied. I've had conversations with young people who are looking to come back here or stay here yet they can't find a house because there aren't any for sale.
“So we're beginning to have these conversations,” the mayor said. “What will it take to keep Bicknell an attractive place where people want to live? I think a splash pad is a small piece of that.”
In other business, Estabrook said the city council Monday approved a $23,000 contract with Hydromax USA in Evansville for the inspection of about 11,000 feet of underground sanitary sewage pipe in the southeast corner of the city.
For years, that area has experienced an infiltration of storm water during heavy rains into the sanitary sewer system, which, in turn, causes overflows at a lift station nearby.
In year's past, the city, too, has been cited by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Hiring Hydromax USA to inspect the pipes, Estabrook said, is the first step in finally figuring out where the infiltration is happening. Then city officials will either seek a state grant aimed at utility infrastructure improvements or look to repair it themselves.
“First we need to put together some information about the infrastructure in that area to determine what we're dealing with,” Estabrook said. “Is it bad enough to put a (grant application) together? Or could we fix the problem privately?
“We're just trying to figure out what is best.”