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Town halls expose concerns about Lake pool design

The Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) recently unveiled its concept drawing for the community's new $900,000 pool complex, but not everyone is pleased with the proposed design. At two town hall meetings in late October, residents raised concerns about safety, usability, and the project's timeline.

LMOA's Pool Design Team, made up of Directors Marlene Weaver and Tom Braithwaite, General Manager Catherine Neelley, and Contract Manager Angie Cooke, worked with a local engineering firm, The Timmons Group, to come up with a plan for the new facility. The plans were drawn up by Aquatics H20, a pool design firm in South Carolina contracted by Timmons.

The proposed pool has three main components: a diving well, a six-lane lap pool, and a large, rounded section containing a wading area for babies and toddlers at one end and a "zero entry" or "beach entry" area on the other. 

The zero entry area allows those with mobility issues to follow a gentle slope to a depth of three to four feet to enter the lap lanes, eliminating the need for steps or use of a wheelchair lift. 

Despite the published design showing eight lap lanes, Weaver said it proved cost-prohibitive, and the pool will remain at six lanes. At both meetings, she declined to mention any figures, citing the upcoming request for proposals.  

"The deck's bigger, the pool's bigger, [and] there's more shade," Weaver told the audience at the first meeting Oct. 14.

Residents at both meetings pointed out concerns with the design of the shallow end, which could easily become packed with toddlers, young swimmers, the mobility impaired, and anyone who wants to put their lounge chair in the shallow end on a hot summer day.

"I get where you're going with this," said Kim Harris, mother of two active swimmers, "but I think you're missing the mark in terms of what's actually going to happen with that area." 

The directors were also questioned repeatedly about the apparent lack of separation between the one-foot-deep kiddie area and the four-foot-deep area right beside it, and the lack of handrails for the disabled in the zero entry area.

While applauding the team's effort to make it easier for those in wheelchairs to use the pool, one disabled resident at the second meeting said that she felt it could become a "panic situation."

"What we need is not a larger entry, but a more stable entry, separated from people coming in front of you," she said.

"We'll look into it," Braithwaite replied, noting that many of the details of the final design were still pending.

These and other issues will have to be worked out within the next few weeks to keep on schedule. 

"We've decided to go with a full concept rather than have all the [pool] companies do their own design," Weaver said. 

On the advice of the Timmons team, they are setting aside four to five months to receive approval from the county for construction before sending out a request for proposals (RFP) in July 2018. They expect to pick a winning bidder in September 2018, with construction to begin immediately for a May 2019 opening.  

Asked what would happen if no contractor could start such a major project on such short notice, Weaver said, "If nobody can start construction when we have it planned then we'll all just look another year." What that might mean for the 2019 pool season is unclear.

Other residents questioned the lack of community involvement in the process. No residents were invited to join or assist the design team. While the Board had previously talked about sending out a survey, they subsequently decided not to do so. 

"There were too many options. There was nothing we could put on a survey to say, 'Do you want this?'" Neelley said. "It would have taken 50, 60, 70 questions just to cover water features."

Board President Rich Barringer said, “We have asked everyone for the input, and when we got the input, this is what we are getting."

He said he understood the "swim team people want eight lanes," but it wasn't in the budget. 

"We're building the pool for the community, not the swim team," Weaver said. "We don't need two extra lanes for the community."

The design team assured the audience their comments had been noted and any changes would be published. There are no current plans to hold another town hall before the final design is approved next month.