Hillsboro council approves initial plans for aquatics center

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council approved engineering plans for the new aquatics center and reaffirmed its decision to protect Memorial Field from non-athletic uses at a special meeting on Friday morning.

Nancy Ronto, representing Burbach Aquatics, led the council through a page-by-page review of the freshly completed schematics for the new water park.

Ronto said she was seeing the plans for the first time, even as the council was-after pushing the company’s engineer to complete the plans on schedule at the insistence of Matt Dalke, Hillsboro recreation director.

“I’m sure I became a pain in the butt to him,” Ronto said, referring to the engineer.

As it was, Ronto discovered several errors in the plans during the review, and said she would have a lot of work to do over the weekend to ensure the plans were drawn to the council’s specifications.

The council reaffirmed its desire that the aquatics center be completed in time for the traditional opening over Memorial Day weekend in 2006. Construction is scheduled to begin in September.

Ronto said components of the project-such as site development, pool construction and mechanical installation-will be bid separately.

She said bidding it that way instead of seeking one bid for the entire project creates “a healthier bidding environment for you guys.”

Ronto said it was her job to see, if multiple contractors are involved, that they coordinate their efforts efficiently and strictly follow the plans to avoid delays and mistakes.

“Burbach Aquatics really works to bring in these projects on time and within budget,” Ronto said.

Because of the company’s commitment to on-site review, she added, Burbach Aquatics “in 28 years never has had a leak, because we don’t allow as many joints-except those engineered for movement.”

After the hour-long review, the council approved the plans in concept. Ronto said the plans will be go through three more reviews before final approval.

Memorial Field

City Administrator Steve Garrett asked the council to restate its desire regarding the use of Memorial Field. At its June 7 meeting, the council had agreed that the field should be used exclusively for baseball, and not for purposes such as parking during the off-season.

The Marion County Fair Association board had made plans to return its carnival to the traditional right-field area after locating it last year immediately north of the fair arena, which the board had concluded was too cramped.

Since being informed of the council’s decision in recent weeks, fair planners were asking the council to reconsider it.

Garrett said he had suggested alternate locations on the fairgrounds-such as the gravel drive south of the baseball field and the parking area north of it. But fair officials had said the alternate locations would infringe on parking as well as loading and unloading of exhibits.

Councilor Matt Hiebert said the city has made improvements to Memorial Field in recent years, and more need to be made to further upgrade the quality of the field.

If the city had to repair the field each year after the fair, “we’re spending taxpayer money unwisely,” not to mention creating potential safety hazards.

During recent conversations, Garrett said the fair board had offered to repair the field after its use, but it wasn’t clear what the offer entailed.

Mayor Delores Dalke said one carnival official she had talked to said carnivals don’t like to set up on grass, and prefer blacktop or street surfaces because of the possibility of rain.

Council members expressed a desire to be “proactive” about the issue and work with the fair board to find alternate strategies, including the possibility of providing shuttle service to the main fairgrounds from parking areas in the adjacent Sports Complex.

Chuck McLinden, president of the fair board, said Friday he was asking for a special meeting with the council on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

Fire hydrants

Garrett mentioned in his report to the council that city fire hydrants had been repainted in recent weeks.

When Dalke asked why the hydrants were no longer color-coded according to water pressure rating, Garrett said the problems that had cause dangerously low-pressure hydrants to be painted black had been corrected.

Asked how that happened, Garrett reported that additional valves had been discovered that apparently were turned off years ago when repair work was started, and then were never reopened when the work was completed.

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