During their Nov. 9 meeting, Sylva commissioners voted to spend $86,500 on a list of repairs to be done prior to the pool’s Memorial Day opening, with the county committed to reimburse half of that cost.
The work will include repairing ladders and pool lights, replacing roofs on the fiberglass building and improving the changing room by adding four floor drains and repainting the floors with non-slip epoxy. But the most expensive item on the list is replacement of the bathroom partitions and associated hardware, estimated to cost $31,000.
“Long-term it looks like we need to be putting some money into a fund for future repairs for the pool, because my gosh, a couple of partitions are $31,000,” said Commissioner David Nestler.
“They’re not marble, are they?” joked Mayor Lynda Sossamon.
“You all probably wouldn’t agree with me that we should fill it up and raise tomatoes instead,” Commissioner Harold Hensley shot back.
Commissioners nevertheless voted unanimously to approve the funds, but pool planning is likely to be a discussion that will continue to circulate in both city and county government.
This round of pool repairs stems from a pair of reports the county commissioned from engineer Victor Lofquist on the outdoor pools in Sylva and Cashiers. The reports examine the pools’ current state and conclude with a prioritized plan for repairs over the coming years, as well as an estimate of the average annual cost of pool repairs.
The plan for the Sylva pool divides the list of needed repairs into three phases, with a total estimated cost between $166,350 and $229,350.
However, the report says, Sylva shouldn’t just complete those repairs and then figure itself to be done for a while. A pool is full of components that have a limited lifespan and eventually need to be replaced — some of those replacements are $30 fixes, while others figure in the thousands. Lofquist’s report lists every component in the pool that eventually requires replacement, estimating that component’s yearly cost based on its approximate price and expected lifespan.
In total, Lofquist estimated that replacing parts in Sylva’s main pool and wading pool would cost a combined $38,300 annually, in today’s dollars.
“You could put that aside on an annual basis, or as we did last year, we did a big project where we replaced the plaster,” Lofquist told the Jackson County Commissioners during a September work session. “But we wanted to put this together just to give you an idea of what the long-term cost was on an annual basis.”
County commissioners are still grappling with how best to address the needs at the Cashiers pool, however. Built in 1982, many features of the pool don’t comply with current regulations. While pools built before 1993 don’t have to conform to these standards, that exemption disappears if the pool is remodeled — a definition that differs from that of “repair.”
“This distinction is important to note when planning any work on the Cashiers Community Swimming Pool since several aspects of the facility do not meet current public swimming pool regulations,” Lofquist’s report on the Cashiers pool reads.
The dimensions of the diving well, the pool shell hydraulic system, flow meter, chemical storage area and many other pool characteristics are out of compliance with current standards.
“I’m just laughing because that’s the whole pool,” County Manager Don Adams said as Lofquist ran down the list during the September work session.
As with the Sylva pool, Lofquist’s report divides the work to be done into three phases, with the first phase estimated to cost $76,200. The entire project is ballparked between $481,000 and $539,000. The estimated annual cost of routine repairs, meanwhile, is figured at $16,900.
Commissioners balked at the numbers when presented with them in September, with Adams suggesting that they think about whether, with a repair price tag of half a million dollars, they’d rather consider a new pool instead.
“This is potentially a more complicated conversation,” Adams said. “There is an option you gut it out and build a pool. At some point it becomes a better value to do that.”
Unlike with the Sylva pool, the county has no cost share agreement in place to maintain the Cashiers pool, though it hopes to work one out with the Cashiers Valley Community Council, Inc., from which the county leases the land the pool is on. That, coupled with the high estimated cost spurring the need to make decisions as to how much the county should invest in a 35-year-old pool, will push back the timeline of repairs in Cashiers.
While repairs to the Cashiers pool won’t happen in time for the summer 2018 season, the pool will still open for the season.
“Sounds like we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” said Commissioner Brian McMahan.