Loudon pool demo begins
Katherine Fernandez News-Herald.net
While the Loudon Parks and Recreation Department does not have approval from the Tennessee Department of Health to start construction of a new aquatic center, officials began demolition June 17 of the former pool near Loudon High School.

Mark Harrell, director of parks and recreation, said the project actually began in August 2012, but issues with the pool surfaced in meetings with the recreation advisory committee. The committee subsequently brought its funding needs before Loudon City Council.

“We realized that we had some issues with the pool, mainly at that point, were ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues that we were experiencing,” Harrell said. “The new federal law mandated that you had to provide chairlifts for folks in wheelchairs for access to the pool.”

The mandate required that the lifts be installed by January 2013, which gave Loudon time because the pool opens seasonally. After purchasing a wheelchair lift, Harrell said he “did some homework” and realized there was no accessibility to the pool in the first place. The building had to be modified to allow for wheelchairs.  

“We meet and discuss and during the discussion we realize that we have numerous other issues with the pool,” Harrell said.

The committee met with city council and asked for the funding of a new pool house and eventually a new pool. The pool house costs $50,000-$55,000 to reconstruct, Harrell said.

The city “muddled through” last year in attempt to keep the pool open and water circulating to meet state standards. Tennessee requires the water to circulate through the filter every three to four hours, he said.

“We were struggling to meet that requirement,” Harrell said. “The plumbing was inadequate. The leaks, motor, was just old, worn out. It just wasn’t feasible to do with the existing infrastructure that we had.”

Harrell asked professionals what would happen if he increased pressure on the pumps, and they told him it was too risky. The pumps wouldn’t hold the pressure most likely and could cause a “major blowout.” He and the committee realized the new pool was needed sooner than anticipated.

Harrell said the city then began investigating how to construct a new pool without raising taxes.

“We realized that we had some debt service that was going to be paid off this year, and if we could make it until that time, then we would have $1.5 million that we could spend without an increase,” Harrell said.

The initial budget was $1.4 million, but the committee cut the cost by about $100,000 to help pay for a new fire truck and other city expenses, he said.

“Paying off debt, it’s not like you and I going out to buy a car,” Harrell said. “We can go to the bank and the next day they give us a loan. We have to assess how we can do that, and they’re always going to come back and say we have to reduce costs. ... We didn’t realize the funding was available until April 2014, which would take place in July 1 of 2014.”

Harrell said city council and Mayor Judy Keller were “smart” to figure out the best way of funding the project, and it was “time well spent.”

The new pool is scheduled to be finished by Nov. 11, but the facility will not open until 2015, Harrell said. The committee sees the aquatic center as a “one-day destination” for people of all ages within a 60-mile radius of Loudon.

Harrell said the project will include a large swimming area, an 18-foot climbing wall, a single loop slide with fountain and misting areas. A splash pad has been added for youth.

“Prior to this, our pool was very boring,” Harrell said. “It’s more of an aquatic feel that you don’t have to just jump in the water and get out.”