Loudon considering swimming pool options

Vicky Newman-News-Herald

The city of Loudon survived the summer with its 39-year-old swimming pool, but Mark Harrell, Loudon Parks and Recreation director, said it likely won't be possible to do that again.

"I'm not certain it will be possible to open again next year," Harrell told Loudon City Council during an Oct. 14 workshop. "Last year, we closed a lot of days because of the weather and we closed two or three days because the pool was not operational.

"The health department shut us down because of water clarity and we shut ourselves down three times," he said.

Harrell said the aging pool has an inadequate filtration system and pump, the concrete is crumbling and the structure is not sound. Water is kept in at all times to prevent it from caving in. The water cannot be filtered fast enough to remove waste, he said, and repair is not possible.

He checked about repairing the pumps and was told the line were too old to handle the increased water pressure.

"They're so old and leaky we'd probably blow it out," he said. "We are required to pump 900 gallons an hour and we may be pumping on-third of that."

Closing the pool is the best option, Harrell said, adding that a replacement pool couldn't be built before 2016.

"Ten years ago it was not such as issue, but everyone is looking for a reason...if someone got sick and there was an outbreak of E.coli," Harrell said. "Knoxville had one last year that was traced to their pool and we are well aware we have problems from over-chlorination."

Mayor Judy Keller said the pool should not be reopened. "We don't ant to keep it open if it is not what it should be," she said.

Harrell said he needs direction in preparing for the coming year. The city must decide whether to work toward replacing the pool with a traditional size like the current one or whether to install a smaller swimming pool and add a splash pad for activities to attract more youth.

A splash pad with activities would drive numbers higher, Harrell said. "Our pool is not fun," Harrell said. "It is a place to get wet."

He said a preliminary project estimate of $750,000 was received last year for a pool, but the actual cost may be more or less when bid.

Council must decide whether to seek grant funding for the project they choose. Grant funds would require more time and possibly make the project cost more in the long run, Harrell said.

The cost of a new pool would be offset somewhat by reduced water use and fewer chemicals, Harrell said. "We added $15,000 in chlorine this summer, the largest amount we have ever used," he said. "When it rains, that is treatable water, too."

Councilman Lynn Millsaps said the board needs an estimated cost and recommendation for how to pay for the project.

City Manager Lynn Mills said the project might be funded with a multipurpose bond issue or loan. The city needs to fund a paving program and a new fire truck, he said.

"We might be able to dovetail some of these projects with a Loudon Utilities Board bond issue," Mills said.

Keller asked Mills and Harrell to gather information for council by the November workshop. She said the city would have resolution on industrial property assessment appeals by then.

Appeals by Tate & Lyle and Kimberly Clark have prevented council from pursuing capital improvements projects since 2010.