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Splash pad back in sight

City prepares to absorb rising costs Hoping for summer 2021 opening
Solon officials are hoping to move forward with the city’s splash pad project, to be built on this site by the city ground storage reservoir at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– The City of Solon would like to get its splash pad into the ground, but there are still costs up in the air.
It’s been a long time on the drawing board for the city’s first water park, but city officials hope to pull the project together and start construction in earnest yet this year.
At a special meeting June 10, city council members authorized a $64,518.45 down payment to Vortex Aquatic Structures International for the splash pad’s structures and recirculation equipment.
The total cost of the materials will be $215,061.50, including delivery.
Council members also approved two resolutions associated with a $56,594 Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant awarded last year for the splash pad project.
The grant requires expense to be made within one year of the award, noted City Administrator Cami Rasmussen, with the anniversary falling on Friday, June 12. “Which is the purpose of this meeting,” she explained.
A splash pad was identified as the top response in a 2012 online survey emailed out by the city to parents of elementary and middle school students in the Solon Community School District, and to families who enrolled previously in park and recreation programming.
In mid-2015, the parks and recreation commission sent out an informational letter to over 3,000 households and asked for contributions and a volunteer splash pad committee was formed.
The overall project includes a splash pad area (about 50 feet in diameter) and a building for restrooms, showers and shelter. The building will also include the mechanical controls for the splash pad and the filtration and chlorination equipment.
The splash pad was originally designed as a “pump and dump” style, meaning water used for the features is not recycled, but could potentially be used to irrigate the area around the site at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area (SRNA).
But the pad’s proximity to the Lake Macbride Watershed, and its environmental impact forced the city to include a filtration and chlorination system to recycle the water, with similar guidelines as municipal swimming pools.
The upgrade delayed the project and the city is still waiting on final approval of its plans by the Iowa Department of Public Health.
But the cost of the equipment is rising rapidly, Rasmussen noted.
The city had bids in the $170,000 range a year ago, she said, and quotes obtained earlier this year were much higher.
“The goal is to lock in the price for this equipment even though we’re not necessarily ready to put it in just yet,” she said. “Won’t be until later in summer.”
Public Works Director Scott Kleppe worked with Vortex to provide a current quote, with action on the down payment before council members at the meeting.
Council members Steve Duncan and Dan O’Neil asked for an overall cost for the project and how the city might fund any gap.
“Everybody I’ve talked to is excited for it to be installed and open up,” O’Neil said. “I just want to make sure that we fully understand what we’re getting into financially.”
To date, Rasmussen said, $306,000 has been pledged to the project, including a city contribution of a little more than $90,000. The city also purchased the land at a cost of $14,763.
The shelter and restrooms, split into a separate project for bidding and grant applications, has been estimated to cost about $107,000, she said.
There’s money enough to cover the splash pad equipment and shelter, she noted, although additional expenses for installation and a sewer line have not been determined.
The city can use its Local Option Sales Tax revenues (dedicated to recreation and infrastructure), as well as SRNA reserves to cover the remainder of project costs, she added.
But the city is not finished with fundraising, and is seeking $100,000 in state trails funding, she noted.
If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, Rasmussen said, the city would probably be in the middle of another public fundraising campaign
“We can’t ask that of our businesses,” she observed.
There is money to front the project, she continued, “but our fundraising efforts aren’t done, we’re going to recoup back as much as we can.”
The $64,518.45 down payment to Vortex represents a 30 percent deposit, and one of the resolutions before council members provided a formal request of reimbursement for the CAT grant.
The other resolution, also a requirement of the CAT grant, designated city officers (Rasmussen, Mayor Steve Stange, City Clerk Susie Siddell and Finance Officer Roman Meyers) authorized to act on behalf of the project, and assured the dollars identified as raised ($240,910) in the application are actually available.
A Pave The Puddle Path fundraiser brought in over $10,000, with local donations from the Solon Beef Days Committee ($25,000), the Solon Area Community Foundation ($7,500), the Optimist Club of Solon ($6,000) and the Solon Women's Club ($3,000).
Johnson County contributed $30,000 because of the regional impact of the restrooms adjacent to the Hoover Nature Trail.
In addition to the CAT grant, the splash pad received support from the Wellmark Foundation ($21,780), Wellmark 3 Point Play ($11,820), the Johnson County Community Foundation ($2,400) and the Alliant Foundation ($2,500).
In-kind contributions came from V&K Engineering (design), Jay Proffitt Construction (site work), JEDD Construction (site work) and E&J Electric (site work).
City Engineer Dave Schechinger expects approval of the city’s plan from the Iowa Department of Health in the next few weeks, Rasmussen said.
The plan is to start work on the shelter yet this summer, with as much of the splash pad to follow as possible, she said. Any remaining construction would take place in spring before a summer opening.