Basalt council approves $3.3M renovation to pool

A new kiddie pool in the form of a robot will highlight improvements to Basalt’s Arbaney Pool. The robot pool will have slides and water curtains and shades not shown on this image.
Courtesy image

The Basalt Town Council voted 6-0 this week to revamp the Arbaney Pool even though the winning bid came in more than twice as high as the initial budget.

The council voted Tuesday to approve a contract with Rudd Construction for $3.3 million. The town’s consultant had estimated the cost at $1.5 million. However, bids reflected the soaring cost of construction in the Roaring Fork Valley. There’s been a building frenzy this year as people flee urban areas for the perceived safety of the mountains. Building materials are also higher and the competition for skilled trade workers has also contributed to higher costs.

The council felt the project was important enough to stick to the plan despite the higher expense.

“I think it’s kind of kids first in this community,” said Mayor Bill Kane.

To fund the project, Basalt will issue Certificates of Participation, a funding mechanism that requires sale of the pool building and facilities to a bank. The town will lease the property back over five years and recover ownership, town finance director Christy Chicoine explained to the council at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Town Manager Ryan Mahoney lobbied the council to go for the Certificates of Participation.

“Right now is a favorable time given the interest rate to borrow money, likely under 2 percent,” he said.

Mahoney stressed that the town isn’t spending money that could otherwise be earmarked for economic aid during the pandemic or the town’s general expenses. The Certificates of Participation will be repaid through tax revenues dedicated exclusively for parks, open space and trails.

The pool project will feature both eye-catching additions, such as a new kiddie pool in the shape of a robot, and less visible improvements such as a new energy efficient operating system. The boiler will be replaced with a more efficient model and eight cold climate heat pumps will be installed. Photovoltaic panels have already been installed to offset some of the energy consumed. Solar thermal panels and pipes will be used to heat the water.

“It sets a standard that we can’t find anywhere else in this country,” said Gyles Thornely of Connect One Design, a consultant for the town.

The town has joined other governments to declare that global warming presents a climate emergency, Thornely noted. The pool project makes a strong statement that Basalt is serious about reducing its carbon footprint. The pool was the town government’s largest energy consumer.

“What you’re doing here sets the tone for an emergency,” Thornely said.

The robot pool will have a zero-depth entry to accommodate the youngest kids. It includes slides and water curtains for kids to play in.

“With a zero entry, the little ones could work their way into deeper water as they grow in comfort,” said an outline of the project. “It was also designed with shape over it so families could comfortably hang out together.”

The existing lap, diving and shallow pools will remain in place. There will be new exterior fencing with an expanded pool deck and artificial turf perimeter. Locker rooms and restrooms will be upgraded.

Rudd will get stared on the renovations this winter so the first phase of upgrades is completed by summer.

The pool managed to remain open for 96 days in 2020 with social distancing rules and limited capacity.

“Roughly 4,800 visits to the pool in our COVID 2020 summer season,” town information said.

In 2019, there were roughly 6,000 pool visits in 105 open days.

Officials believe the pool improvements will make the facility an even bigger destination.

“We want to present to the public a fabulous pool for the kids and I think that’s what we’ve done,” said Carol Hawk, a member of the town’s Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee.