Sunset Hills officials still discussing proposals for new community center, pool

Board studying three options for aquatic center

By VINCENT BRENNAN

After more than two hours of discussion last week during a special Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen workshop, plans to construct a community center and new aquatic center still have not been finalized.

While the majority of the funding is coming from Proposition P, the budgets of both projects are exceeding original expectations.

Prop P was approved by voters in April 2007 and contributed a half-cent increase in sales tax. Prop P, which has a 20-year life span, is expected to generate $13.8 million to improve parks and solve storm-water problems within the city.

To compound the problem, the Public Works Department is in need of additional financial help over stormwater priorities.

Ward 2 Alderman John Littlefield, who also serves as chairman of the city’s Special Projects Committee, said that all projects will benefit the community, but funding for each of them is becoming difficult to handle.

“We are always doing everything that we can for our citizens to enhance the quality of life,” Littlefield said as he opened the Aug. 13 meeting. “(But) money is our biggest hang-up.”

Of the $13.8 million expected to be generated by Proposition P, $3.7 million has been determined as the amount needed to repair the most critical stormwater projects through 2010. These projects include repairs to bridges — at West Watson and Baalbek roads — and a culvert replacement under Rott Road.

Stream-bank stabilization is another aspect of the proposed stormwater repairs with eight projects identified in the city.

City Engineer/Director of Public Works Anne Lamitola insists the repairs are necessary, but doesn’t expect any help from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

“The projects could become eligible for MSD funds, but not until 2011 at the earliest,” Lamitola said. “They are in the planning stages, but it’s going to be so limited.”

Lamitola noted that the last funding the city received from MSD totaled $31,000, and it was only a small part of the funding for the project.

Meanwhile, city officials continue to discuss options for the community center and aquatic center.

As proposed, the community center would be constructed adjacent to City Hall while the new aquatic center will replace the old pool at Watson Trails Park.

The two options of the community center have different size gymnasiums — junior-high size and high-school size — and the cost of each is $7 million to $7.4 million, respectively. The total base cost of the 17,350-square-foot center, excluding the gym, comes to a total of $5.2 million, according to Hastings & Chivetta.

Officials have toyed with numerous ideas to cut costs on the project.

“We could always add the gym when funds become available,” Parks and Recreation Department Director Gerald Brown said.

Options for the aquatic center also have been the subject of much discussion.

Of the three options presented by developer Councilman-Hunsaker, officials favored the last of the three with its inclusion of a lazy river.

Alderman Frank Gregory added that other amenities, such as water slides and spray grounds, were open to discussion.

The third option of the pool is expected to cost slightly more than $3 million, but eliminating the “bells and whistles” would reduce the cost.

Another debated part of the aquatic center is the size of the competition pool. The sizes differ from six- to eight-lane models and the cost can add up to $200,000.

All three projects combined — with the minimum amount of amenities — total roughly $13.8 million, but city officials hope the designers will be able to reduce the cost of each project.

“We’re going to get back to our two people (Hastings & Chivetta and Councilman-Hunsaker) and see what they can scale back,” Littlefield concluded.