In what City Council members said were huge moves forward for this major community campaign, the council voted to solicit construction bids for the Piedmont Community Pool project, and to formally authorize Alameda County to begin in the fall to levy a tax Piedmont residents approved in November 2020 to finance the project.
Only two firms — Lathrop Construction Associates, Inc. of Benicia and S.J. Amoroso Construction Co. of Redwood City — passed a Piedmont pre-qualification process and have been deemed “fully capable” of taking on the pool project because of the various unique aspects of the project. Four other firms had expressed formal interest in bidding for the pool project.
The council had worked to move the bid process up from a late fall start to summer, to help minimize cost increases tied to “construction cost hyperinflation,” which has driven prices up significantly in recent months, with no end in sight.
The project’s basics include a 27-meter by 25-yard competition pool with a diving well; a 3,177-square-foot “activity pool” with three 25-yard lap lanes; a single-story pool building with an office, lobby, locker rooms, two gender neutral changing rooms and rooftop pavilion. The entire aquatic center, including the building and pool systems, will be electrically powered; natural gas won’t be used for heating the water. Certain amenities could be added should money come available, City Administrator Sara Lillevand said.
“There aren’t ‘extras’ included here,” said Lillevand, who considers all prospective features on the table now to be important pieces.
But costs will remain an issue, as illustrated by an Aug. 8 construction cost estimate of $21,152,000, up from $20,905,000 in April. Given a hard $19 million construction budget, there’s a gap of about $2.15 million that needs to be made up by community giving. Enter the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization, which has pledged to raise at least $1 million to close that anticipated funding gap.
Eric Havian of PRFO said a group of about 20 Piedmont residents is “working feverishly because we are on a ridiculously short timeline.” The group will hold a giving campaign kickoff party on Thursday, Aug. 25
“It’s going to be a real challenge,” Havian said. “People have been phenomenal about stepping up.”
In addition, the city will lead a separate effort to raise $500,000 toward the cost of 20 electric heat pumps required to heat the pools.
Most of the pool project cost, of course, will be borne by Piedmont taxpayers. On Nov. 3, 2020, Measure UU received more than 68 percent voter approval. The measure authorized issuance of $19.5 million in general obligation bonds, and to levy an ad valorem property tax sufficient to pay such bonds. In December 2021, the city sold the full amount of the bonds.
Measure UU called for a maximum tax rate to be $26.20 per each $100,000 of a given parcel’s assessed valuation over 30 years. The required tax rate to meet the first year’s debt service is $23.17 per each $100,000 in assessed valuation.
Assistant City Administrator John Tulloch said the first assessments will appear on Piedmont residents’ November/December tax bills.
Also on Monday, along with the votes to authorize the county to levy the taxes and to solicit construction bids, the council approved increasing the overall budget for its contract with pool project management firm Griffin Structures from $612,700 to $962,700.
The new Piedmont Community Pool will replace the city’s 58-year-old pool, operated by the city from 2011 until its COVID-19-related closure in March 2020. Before it was finally drained, the old pool was leaking an estimated 3,000 gallons a day, and had become a maintenance nightmare.
It was clear council members on Monday night considered these votes major milestones in the process to get the new pool built. Mayor Teddy Gray King asked Councilwoman Betsy Smegal Andersen to make the pool-related motions Monday night, calling Andersen “the legacy leader for all (Piedmont) pool issues.” The pool project may never have happened, King told Andersen, “if it hadn’t been for your tenacious, dogged, and slightly obnoxious determination.”
For her part, Andersen thanked the numerous volunteers, and city staffers, who worked to make the pool come true.
“This is a truly momentous step,” Andersen said.
Contact Sam Richards at email@example.com
Not sure why the city needs to fund raise for the heat pumps – they save well over $500,000 in utility costs over the life of the project. The Facilities Capital Fund has more than $7M in it now, intended for just this kind of upgrade. Judging by the other cost escalations, the building of the much larger aquatic pool is probably the largest contributor to cost overruns and appeals to aquatic users should be the main focus. Sounds like PRFO is on it.