City pool work set to begin next week

The most recent artist rendering of the proposed Thompson Park pool project. City of Watertown

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WATERTOWN — If all goes as expected, children could be cooling off and jumping into the city’s new pool at Thompson Park by the end of July.

Work crews are expected to pull up to Thompson Park with construction trailers on Monday and start work on the controversial $3.1 million project to replace the 94-year-old pool and bathhouse.

On Friday morning, the general contractor on the project, Con Tech Building Systems, Gouverneur, notified city officials — to their surprise — that work on both the pool and bathhouse will begin next week with site work.

Later in the morning, City Manager Rick Finn said he was under the impression that just the bathhouse would start this fall, but acting city engineer Thomas Mauer confirmed to him a few minutes later that the general contractor also was going to work on the pool.

Upon hearing the news, Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said she hoped the pool would be a part of the initial work.

“We really felt the pool needed to be started this fall,” she said.

Under the preliminary schedule, excavation for the pool and pouring of concrete is to begin on Oct. 14 and be finished by the end of the month.

At the same time, the foundation for the bathhouse also will start. Con Tech wants to have the bathhouse work to be far enough along that crews can work inside during the winter, Mr. Mauer said.

On Monday night, council members will be asked to appropriate $157,000 to retain C&S Companies, Syracuse, to handle the project’s construction management and inspection oversight. C&S designed the project.

On Thursday morning, a pre-construction meeting was held for the contractor and subcontractors to discuss the construction schedule.

The project became a political hot potato after its cost had increased from an initial projection of about $1.5 million to its current cost of $3.1 million.

The pool project became a major point of contention on Aug. 19 when council members Cody J. Horbacz, Ryan Henry Wilkinson and Mrs. Ruggiero went forward with dipping into $2.9 million of the city’s fund balance to help pay for the new pool and bathhouse.

In January 2018, city lawmakers were adamant that they would not spend a penny more than the $2.4 million set by going to bond.

With four votes needed to change the bonding, the project would not have proceeded because Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo were adamant about not going over the $2.4 million limit.

Since then, there’s been some behind-the-scenes talk that the project would be delayed until after the election to see if the makeup of City Council changed and there would be enough opposition to stop the project altogether.

When told the pool work was starting next week, mayoral candidate Jeffrey M. Smith, who has vehemently opposed the project, questioned whether it was going to begin.

“I don’t know,” he said, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Mr. Finn said the project would have begun sooner but a subcontractor was having issues with getting insurance cleared up. He stressed it wasn’t the city’s fault that the work was starting now.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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