City to spend more than three times cost budgeted for required pool work

Asphalt rejuvenator account to be pared to fund pool work

By EVAN YOUNG

It will cost Crestwood more than three times what officials initially budgeted to bring the city’s pool into compliance with a federal law before it reopens Memorial Day weekend.

Aldermen voted unanimously last week to award a $35,215 contract to Westport Pools for replacement and repair work that will ensure the Crestwood Aquatic Center complies with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The board also allocated an additional $1,000 for change orders.

The scope of the project includes replacing all 17 drain covers and repairing 11 sumps at the facility.

Westport Pools was one of two companies that bid on the contract. The other, Pool Pros, bid $48,330.

Crestwood’s 2010 budget allocates only $10,000 for the work, which leaves $26,215 of the project cost unfunded. City officials said they believed the work would be less extensive.

“We certainly can learn from this, and we certainly did a poor job of estimating this, obviously,” City Administrator Jim Eckrich said last week. “My defense to this would be we’ve never estimated a grate project before, and we weren’t expecting to have to complete repairs of this magnitude. Certainly we blew the estimate on this.”

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, effective December 2008, aims to prevent drownings caused by pool-drain suction. Public facilities are required to install federally approved anti-suction grates on all pool and spa drains. In St. Louis County, pools must comply with the law before reopening for the 2010 season.

City staff presented the board with three options for offsetting the remaining $26,215: increase park and stormwater fund expenditures, use part of the city’s $223,053 recent settlement with AT&T, currently in general fund reserves; or cut the asphalt rejuvenator projects account within the capital improvement fund.

Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach also suggested the city delay the replacement of 300 chairs at the Whitecliff Park Community Center — a total cost of $19,500 — to help fund the pool work.

But fellow Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan, Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel and Mayor Roy Robinson suggested the city dip into the AT&T settlement.

“Instead of reducing work on our streets for these kinds of activities, we should be drawing off of this money that we’ve laid aside. That’s what it’s for,” Robinson said. “Now we’re suggesting that we put off our street repairs or not have adequate chairs for our (community center) when we have the money laying there that can take care of this difference that we need on this project.”

Noting the board already voted earlier in the evening to cut street-repair dollars to fund a possible lighting project, Pickel said, “In total they may be small dollars, but our streets as a whole throughout the city are in deplorable condition, and I think every time we go to that well and reduce expenditures, we are impacting the entire city in terms of our property values. And if we do have some funds set aside, I think we ought to consider using some of that.”

Mill and overlay projects “historically come in quite a bit under-budget,” Eckrich said. Therefore, even if asphalt rejuvenator funds are cut, the city still could use leftover mill and overlay project dollars to fund them, provided those projects continue to come in under-budget, he said.

Given the current economic climate, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said he was hesitant to use the AT&T settlement.

“One of the reasons I’m hesitant about it is because I’m a little concerned about our revenue projections this year,” he said, adding that at the same time, the street program has been fiscally well-managed. “So in the absence of being extremely specific, I would opt at this time saying that if necessary we … eliminate the equivalent of $25,000 work from the street fund, if necessary.”

The city’s 2010 budget projects an overall cash shortfall of nearly $140,000 across all major funds, “and it’s very possible that it may deteriorate from that,” Miguel added. “So I would like to at least hold the … cash shortfall at the point it is now.”

Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Schlink suggested the city use street-program dollars for the aquatic center and later replenish the fund with part of the AT&T settlement if the program underperforms.

Regardless of how the city comes up with the remaining $26,215, the pool project needs to move forward, Ward 4 Alderman John Foote said.

“We have been successful in managing and adjusting the budgets … Let’s get this done and let’s see where we are a little later on before we jump to either spending re-serves or some of these other conclusions,” he said. “We really need the streets. There are definite problems there. We don’t have a choice on this because the laws prevent this pool from opening.

“So I suggest we move forward with the approval of it, and the payments that need to be made on this, use the same tight budget controls we’ve used before and make sure that we hurt our budgets minimal by getting this thing done. We have no choice. We need to move forward on it.”

Pulling the $26,215 from the AT&T settlement or increasing park and stormwater fund expenditures required a voice vote, Eckrich said. Aldermen took no further action, so staff will reduce the asphalt rejuvenator account within the capital improvement fund, he said.

“At this particular point in time, I think the city administrator has a broad view of what needs to be done within the city,” Foote said. “It’s early in the system. I would go with your (Eckrich’s) judgment.”