γ By Stephen Martin
The Arab American News
DEARBORN — The Dearborn City Council unanimously approved a plan to spend no more than $4,256,200 on a new pool complex in Ford Woods Park, despite an estimated price tag of about $2 million less on a proposal posted on the city’s website last year.
Council President Susan Dabaja said all of the city’s outdoor neighborhood pools are in disrepair and have exceeded their useful lifecycles.
At the January 30 City Council meeting, Dabaja said the city received five bids for the construction and that the Council selected the cheapest, most responsible option.
“Although it’s a lot higher than anticipated,” Dabaja said at the meeting, “the consensus that we will see shortly is that it would be a nice addition and a good resource for Dearborn families for years to come.”
Councilwoman Erin Byrnes said she used to swim in the old pool at Ford Woods, just five minutes away from where she grew up.
“It’s exciting to be investing dollars in something that people can see and experience,” Byrnes said. “I think this will attract people from the neighborhood and maybe even other cities.”
Councilman David Bazzy said the Council looked at all of the city pools in 2015 and found out they needed work, noting that Ford Woods was deemed the worst. Bazzy said the Council needs to look harder at issues like this.
“I think there is a learning curve for us and even a communication curve,” he said, adding that the Council needs to be smarter next time.
“We need this pool,” he said. “This process is needed, but our process has to be smarter. I do want us, as a body, to learn something because if we don’t learn something from mistakes we make, we are likely to make the same mistakes over again.”
The chosen concept will cover approximately 23,000 square feet, with a pool capacity of 200 people and a dual water slide.
The complex will also include a 9,850 square foot concrete deck with a patio lounge area decorated with umbrellas and shades. A 4,000 square foot grass area is included in the price estimate as well as the construction of a 6,270 square foot building to house staff offices, storage areas and four family shower areas, according to a proposed plan on the city’s website.
Ironically, despite issues with the city’s pools, the Dearborn Recreation and Parks Department, which oversees them, earned a national accreditation from the National Recreation and Park Association in 2009 and 2014.
This accreditation, which is reevaluated every five years, ensures “policy makers, department staff, the general public and tax-payers that an accredited park and recreation agency has been independently evaluated against established benchmarks as delivering a high level of quality,” according to the city’s recreation master plan for 2016-2021.
The existing Ford Woods Pool opened in 1954. Before it was demolished this past summer, the 16,870 square foot pool had a capacity of 175 people.
According to the proposal posted on the city’s website on January 30, 2017, the original estimated price tag for a new Ford Woods Pool Complex was $2,174,622.
The resolution that passed at this year’s January 30 meeting, brought by Council members Mike Sareini and Leslie Herrick, saw that figure balloon to nearly $4.3 million.
The Council awarded the contract to the Troy-based Degenhardt and Sons Inc., “in an amount not expected to exceed $4,256,200 for pool construction at Ford Woods Park,” according to the meeting agenda.
The proposed plan also includes plans for the Dunworth Memorial Pool bathhouse project. The estimated cost of that complex is $3 million.
The document notes that $1,025,638 has already gone towards “pool repairs, bathhouse maintenance and repairs, a wading pool renovation, play elements and renovation to the 50-meter pool” since 1999. While $1,111,514 went toward “pool filtration/circulation” in 2007 alone.
The $3 million is expected to cover costs of the further renovations, demolition and construction at the Dunworth pool.
The plan will be developed by an architecture and engineering firm selected by the city. This type of firm is defined under a federal law that imposes requirements for the selection of government-contracted architecture and engineering firms. The plan is for construction to begin this fall, according to the 2017 proposal.
Attendance at Dearborn’s outdoor pools has increased over the past two years, according to the 2017 plan.
In 2015, 53,439 people attended the pools at Dunworth, Ford Woods, Lapeer, Summer Stephens and Ten Eyck, while 62,929 visited in 2016.
Specifically, Dunworth had 35,092 visitors, Ford Woods had 4,148, Lapeer had 1,155, Summer Stephens had 3,432 and Ten Eyck had 3,218 in 2015.
In 2016 Dunworth had 41,477; Ford Woods had 5,480, Lapeer had 2,457, Summer Stephens had 3,251 and Ten Eyck had 3,612.
The revenue for the outdoor pools from 2014, 2015 and 2016 was $282,286, $311,408 and $330,364 respectively.
The expenditures forced the outdoor pools to receive a taxpayer subsidy of $173,687, $202,361 and $134,498 in those three years.
The pool complex at Ford Woods is expected to be ready for the 2019 swimming season.