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Canton moves forward with pool project

The town of Canton is moving forward with plans to upgrade its public swimming pool after interviewing several design consultants last week.

Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss said the board of aldermen decided this spring to make renovations to the town pool and approved funding to hire consultants to walk them through the design process. 

“It was a good decision because our pool is in bad shape and has been piecemealed together and patched up,” he said. 

The town put out a request for qualifications and heard back from seven firms. The submittals were reviewed and scored by the recreation board, and the top three were interviewed. 

The Clark Patterson and Lee firm in Asheville came out on top and met with the mayor and aldermen Friday to discuss possibilities before the board decides to contract with the firm.

“Upon your approval of the firm, staff will go through negotiations to set a price for the contract so we can move forward,” Hendler-Voss said. 

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Jeff Sherer, vice president of Clark Patterson and Lee, gave a presentation showing other municipal pool projects his company had completed and introduced two other consultants who would be working on the Canton pool project.

Tammy Ellis started Aquatics H20 several years ago and has already completed major pool projects for the town of Franklin and Loudon, Tennessee.  

“Tammy has an impressive portfolio that exemplifies what we’re looking for — a modern dynamic design,” Hendler-Voss said. “With the Macon County pool project, attendance increased 300 percent. I’m not saying that will happen here, but that’s what can happen with a better design.”

Jeff Ashbaugh, senior project manager for Benesch in Charlotte, said he would assist the town in going after grant funding to help pay for the renovation project. The town plans to submit a grant to North Carolina State Park’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. 

The consultants talked about the challenges of renovating pools, and one solution has been to build on top of the existing pool, which ultimately takes away depth. Ellis said she had many projects in which regular lap pools were transformed into a pool that could accommodate everyone’s needs, from small children to senior citizens.

Popular features could include a zero entry portion or a separate splash pad area for small children, waterslides and basketball hoops for teenagers, a lazy river and a roped-off shallow part for water aerobics. 

“You’ve got plenty of room on your site to do a variety of things,” Sherer said. “If we go into the pool with a similar pool, we still have to deal with the problems underneath. We’ll work with a team on boring to make sure things are structurally solid.”

Alderman Zeb Smathers and Mayor Mike Ray both said they would like to keep the diving board at the pool because it is a popular feature. However, most of the projects the consultants were showing didn’t have deep enough water for diving.

“Diving boards do get a lot of use, but the con is the insurance expense and liability,” Ellis said. 

Hendler-Voss said having a diving board also costs extra because of the expense of staffing lifeguards. 

The next round of PARTF grant applications must be submitted by the end of January. Ray asked the consultants if they would be able to get a grant application together for the pool by then if the town enters into a contract soon.

Ashbaugh said it was possible, but he recommended waiting for the following year so they would have time to collect data, submit a stronger application and build up some community engagement, because the grant money is competitive. In the meantime, he said, the town could look for private donors to partner with on the project. 

Aldermen agreed they’d rather wait and have a better chance of receiving a large pot of money for the project. 

Once a contract is in place, the consultants will work with the town to produce a master plan for the site while looking at a budget, possible private and grant funding, different potential pool features and a timeline for completion. Sherer said public input would be a crucial component to the process.

“When this is all said and done, we want the community to feel like it’s their pool — something they wanted,” said Alderwoman Gail Mull. 

Hendler-Voss asked the consultants to prepare their contract proposal so he could present it to the board at one of its January meetings. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second and third Thursday of the month at town hall. 

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