City starts search for pool construction manager

New pool complex proposal from city staff report, Feb. 16.

The City of Piedmont will begin its search this week for a “deeply experienced professional” to oversee construction of the new Piedmont community pool.

Tuesday night, the Piedmont City Council voted unanimously to issue a “request for proposals” for prospective managers to preside over the design and construction of the pool, which was authorized by the November passage of Measure UU. The ballot measure, passed with 68.47 percent Piedmont voter approval, calls for authorizing the city to issue up to $19.5 million in general obligation bonds to finance construction of a new city swimming pool. 

The plan is to issue the request for proposals on Wednesday, Feb. 17, with proposals from interested applicants due on March 19. The goal is for the city council to award a contract to the chosen person at its April 5 meeting, though that date isn’t set in stone. Paul Benoit, the former Piedmont city administrator brought back as a special assistant for the pool project, said Tuesday that city leaders must be sure they have the right person in place. The job, he said, will include overseeing schedules, budgets and other crucial aspects in getting the pool built.

“We can’t have the person managing (the project) being distracted,” said Benoit, noting the program manager will be working with a team of city employees — City Administrator Sara Lillevand, Recreation Director Chelle Putzer, Director of Public Works Daniel Gonzales, Finance Director Mike Szczech, Director of Planning and Building Kevin Jackson and City Engineer John Wanger — who have myriad other responsibilities.

A separate construction manager for the pool project will be sought later. 

The new pool will replace the existing Piedmont aquatics facility that opened in 1964. The old pool, operated by the City of Piedmont from 2011 until its COVID-19-related closure in March 2020, is literally falling apart, and was leaking an estimated 3,000 gallons of water each day when it was shut down. 

The pool project will include both a deep 30-meter-by-25-yard “competitive” pool and a shallow recreational pool.  The large pool will host competitive swim and water polo meets and practices, as well as lap swim, aquatics camps, clinics and instruction, and recreational swimming and diving. 

The overall pool project also will include a 7,700-square-foot, two-story bathhouse with a reception area, changing /restrooms, concessions and mechanical room on the ground floor, and two multipurpose rooms, office space and an observation deck overlooking the two pools and views of the bay on the second floor.

The new pool complex will be built on the site of the existing one. Lillevand said some work, including topographical survey work and geotechnical engineering work at the pool site, has already started. 

There has been community engagement in the pool project process as early as 2015, when the city launched a study of the possibilities for a new pool to replace what, even six years ago, was a deteriorating aquatics facility. And the community will continue to be involved, with the upcoming creation of both a citizens advisory committee for the project, and a bond oversight committee with the focused charge of watching over how the general obligation bond money.

“That community engagement won’t be limited to those committees of five to seven residents,” Benoit said. “I think we’re going to hear from as many voices as want to participate.”

Among those voices have been many on, and connected to, the city council, Mayor Teddy Gray King said. Conna McCarthy, the newest Piedmont City Council member, said she was excited to be on the council now as this long-hoped-for project gets off the ground.

Councilwoman Betsy Smegal Andersen also said she’s happy to play a key role. “I can’t think of anything more hopeful than talking about building a pool in the community we love.” 

Amid all the talk Tuesday night of the new pool project, a handful of people called upon the city council to consider reopening the old pool in the short term. Bradley Smet, Piedmont High School’s athletic director, said it’s nearly impossible to find pools for members of scholastic swim teams to find places to practice, even in non-COVID times. He said effective protocols to keep swimmers safe are available.

“I know we’re not the only ones in this boat,” Smet said. Because the old swimming pool was not specifically on Tuesday’s council agenda, council members did not respond to the comments about reopening the old pool. A  2020 city report said the city would probably have to spend more than $4 million over the next 10 years to keep the pool “marginally functional.”

Pursuing a Linda Beach master plan grant

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday night for the city to apply for a Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program grant to help pay for completing phase one of the city’s Linda Beach Conceptual Master Plan Project.

These grants were created as part of Proposition 68, approved by California voters in June 2018. This application will be part of the fourth and final round for the competitive grant program, under which grants of as much as $8 million may be given to create new parks, or expand or renovate existing ones. Proposals are due to the state on March 12.

The Linda Beach Conceptual Master Plan Project was approved by the council in January 2019, and would enable improvements on the south end of the park, closest to the Oakland Avenue bridge.

“Funding is the only thing holding the project back, but that’s a big hurdle,” Lillevand said. 

Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh called the grant program a “tremendous opportunity,“  and Gonzales said he is optimistic the Piedmont project will prove grant-worthy, perhaps even pay for the entire $4 million project.

Added Lillevand, “Partial funding would be a nice problem to have.”

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