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Council updated on pool design, financing options

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SHEETS: Frankfort Parks Superintendent Travis Sheets shows an old, panoramic photo of one of three iterations of a pool that has been on the same site at TPA Park since the 1920s.
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LATEST DESIGN: A rendering of the lastest design for the proposed TPA Park aquatic center shows a zero-depth beach entry, a lazy river, waterslides and diving boards.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

Frankfort Parks Superintendent Travis Sheets, HWC Engineering Landscape Architect Kyle Lueken and Reed Financial Group accountant Mason Cochran updated the Frankfort City Council on designs and financing options for a proposed water park for TPA Park during Monday night's regular meeting at Old Stoney.

Sheets began the presentation by showing photos of the pool facilities that have been at TPA Park since the first public pool was built in 1929. Each of the first two iterations of the pool remained in place for about 30 years before the one that exists today was built in the early '90s.

“The fathers of the city of Frankfort, a long time ago, saw the need of a pool in the city of Frankfort, and they did a wonderful job in design,” Sheets said. “Back when I ran the pool back in the '90s, the pool would reach capacity. We would meet the 800 number and then we would have to close the doors. Then we would count the people who left and then allow that many people to come in. And we did that on a daily basis.”

Sheets recapped the discovery of a significant leak last May. The leak was temporarily patched and lasted just long enough to get through Aug. 7 when the pool closed.

“We did have engineers come later on,” Sheets said. “They looked the pool over and realized it was in much worse shape than we anticipated.”

Last fall, a pool feasibility study was begun to weigh options for new construction, and it has come to the conclusion that the construction of a water park with features favored in the study's survey would be the preferred route.

Sheets reported 2018 attendance of 6,195, revenues of $16,775 and $132,026.89 in expenses. That is compared to Lebanon's Seashore Waterpark, which had a 2018 attendance of approximately 45,000 and $215,423 in revenue.

Lueken then reviewed several options that were considered for water park design early on in the process. He then displayed the current concept, which keeps a 25-yard competition pool with diving boards. It also included favored amenities including a lazy river, a wide, zero-depth beach entry, a water walk and a waterslide tower with splashdown area.

“This option, in our opinion, takes and meets the goals and priorities we heard through the public survey, through the committee feedback and at the public meeting,” Lueken said.

Cochran displayed to the council a summary of the proposed funding for the water park, which would be a 20-year bond that would use the existing revenues of the city through tax-increment financing and four years of county economic development income tax.

“This bond would be able to be paid primarily leaning on the TIF and then using the EDIT as a backup to help fund what the TIF isn't able to pay on the payments,” Cochran said, who showed a two-year overview with all of the outstanding bonds that the TIF is currently supporting.

“For the first four years, the EDIT fund will be helping out a little bit making all of these payments,” he added. “And then after year five, the TIF will be able to completely handle the cost of this pool bond.”

Cochran said the total amount financed for the project would be $9.9 million dollars.

The city's finance committee of city councilmen Steven Beardsley, Jim Moyer and Eric Woods joined Cochran in answering questions and speaking about the financing plans.

“What became evident here is that we have to prioritize projects,” Woods said. “Although I think most of us agree that we need a pool, to do a pool of this magnitude and this much money is going to require we prioritize this along with other such projects – like some road projects and possible things like when we will build a police station. As a finance committee member, I think it is important the the whole council understands that, even though we see from the Reedy report that we can afford it, it is a commitment on a little bit higher level than we have had so far.

“I will say from my perspective on the finance committee, it is worth it because of the percentage of the city it will serve – being a city that is trying to do more for its citizens and especially trying to come up with recreational activities for the kids,” Woods added. “I think this is a no-brainer that we have to have a pool. But, when it comes to affordability, it is going to require that level of commitment from the council.”

Woods said that it could potentially delay the third phase of the Washington Avenue project a couple of years.

“Unlike how it has been portrayed, we do very carefully look at every item that we enter into,” Beardsley said. “We look at very sustainable and defined revenue streams that we use to fund these things. We do not just cavalierly commit to everything that comes along. We turn down a lot of things. We carefully looked at this in conjunction with the other things that we have going on and did determine that, within the sustainable and defined revenue streams outside of property taxes, we could do this and, with the great future of the different abatements rolling off, have the ability to continue to support these projects. We felt it was very responsible.”

Moyer added that it is not possible to renovate the current pool.

“It would cost way too much money, and we would not have anybody who wants to use it,” he said. “We are trying to make our city grow, not go the other direction. So, we have to take on projects that will attract new people to the community while at the same time keeping our own folks here at home to enjoy the amenities. That is one of the reasons why this is the No. 1 top priority in our opinion.”

At one point in the discussion, Wheeler questioned if money will be allocated for maintenance on the pool through the next 30 years.

Wheeler has been a vocal critic of what he views as out of control spending.

“I am concerned about how much money we have spent, and I have made that very clear,” Wheeler said. “I plan to continue to make it very clear.”

That comment sparked an argument from Beardsley, who challenged Wheeler to be more specific about his concerns.

“Have you done analysis on cash flows that we haven't done correctly?” Beardsley asked. “The finance committee really looks at this carefully, and we have a lot of background in doing this. So, I am just perplexed for that position – about our debt levels and everything else.”

“I am sorry, I have questions as to how well we are doing with these things,” Wheeler said after referring to the Prairie Creek Park project bids coming back significantly higher that originally estimated. “And I am not casting stones at you (Beardsley).”

“It sure feels like it, Lewis,” Beardsley responded. “It sure feels like it. We have done a lot of analysis, and we just hear 'No, that is too much. We do not hear any analysis.'”

“You know why,” Wheeler answered. “Because I still have four kids in my house. I still try to feed them. I still try to work overtime to pay for the increase in utilities and the increase I voted against last year.”

“How much did your property tax go up by any of these bonds?” Beardsley asked. “Because I know it is zero.”

“It doesn't mean that I am not paying my fair share,” Wheeler answered. “I want us to see the streets get fixed.”

Mayor Chris McBarnes stated that the city is doing a million dollars in street paving this year and over $3.5 million repaving Washington Avenue.

“I don't think we have done that much paving in our city's history,” McBarnes said.

Overall, McBarnes felt that the presentation was informative.

“I think it was thorough and full of good statistical information,” he said. “It shows that we can afford this project through existing revenue without putting any further burden on the taxpayers of Frankfort. This proposal primarily uses existing revenues.”