McGregor Council considers proposal for splash pad engineering

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Although installation of a splash pad at McGregor’s Turner Park isn’t planned until 2019, efforts are already underway to determine the type of water system best suited for the project.

Jacob Huck, from MSA Professional Services, presented an engineering proposal to the McGregor Council at its June 21 meeting, detailing two options available to the city.

The first, Huck explained, is a flow-through system, where the water goes through and then out, without being re-used. A recirculating system, on the other hand, would treat the water that goes through the splash pad, allowing it to be re-used, he said.

A flow-through system would be cheaper to install, Huck said, but consume more water. The city could limit water use, however, through the type and amount of features selected for the splash pad, as well as regulating the amount of flow to the system.

Splash pad systems are all automated and push-button activated, Huck noted. The city will be able to program a timer determining how long the splash pad will operate once the button is pushed. 

Huck said a recirculated system would save water, but be more expensive to install. A certified pool operator(s) would be needed to monitor the system every four hours. Certification, he said, would require a one- to two-day training and a test. Underground water storage tanks and a small pump house would also be required for the system.

“It comes down to the cost for water and the estimated usage,” Huck said. “It’s not going to be a huge pad, so water usage will be less, but it will still be significant.”

While a flow-through system, at first, seemed to be the best option, Maria Brummel, head of the McGregor Park Board, who was in attendance at the meeting, said she’s coming to think a recirculating system might be better.

“It would save water,” she said. “I think it’s the responsible thing to do. It will also save a lot of money in the long haul.”

If selected to provide engineering designs for the splash pad, Huck said MSA would work with a vendor of the city’s choice to develop preliminary layouts.

“There are a lot of different vendors you can work with,” he said, with them all providing information on the types, colors and sizes of available splash pad features.

Huck said vendors might also be able to provide the city with other communities who have put in splash pads. Those first-hand accounts could help McGregor better determine which system would work best.

“Splash pads are starting to become more popular, but there aren’t a lot of them around yet,” he shared, especially in Iowa. 

According to Huck, MSA engineers one to two splash pads each year. Few are “stand alones,” as McGregor’s would be. Usually, he said, they’re attached to pools.

MSA’s engineering services for the project would run at least an estimated $18,100. The amount gave some council members pause.

“It just seems like a lot of money. I’d like to talk to vendors and get their perspective,” said councilman Charlie Carroll, noting that it might help the city better determine a final cost for the splash pad project.

Brummel said the Turner Park Committee talked with some vendors several years ago, getting an estimated cost of $75,000. However, she said, that didn’t include all aspects of the project, and it could now be over $100,000.

Around that amount, Huck said, the project would likely have to be publicly bid.

Councilwoman Janet Hallberg, who’s also a member of the Turner Park Committee, said the plan is for the splash pad to include seven or eight features.

So far, Hallberg added, $11,000 has been raised. The committee is also looking into grants. 

“We have had tremendous community support,” Brummel shared.

With people already donating toward the splash pad, Hallberg felt it was important to have a plan to present to them, showing how their funds would be utilized.

“I’d like to see it go through,” she said, regarding approval of MSA’s engineering services. “There’s a lot to it, and it’s got to be done right.”

Hallberg made a motion to contract with MSA, but the motion received no second and failed. The council will discuss the topic at a future meeting, after talking with splash pad vendors.

Marina lease

The council also discussed the McGregor Marina lease, due to delinquency of the lease payment. 

City administrator Lynette Sander said the city was also notified by an electrical inspector for the state fire marshal that there was an anonymous complaint related to the marina’s electrical services.

The council advised the dock commission to perform an inspection, then also have the electrical inspector complete an inspection, providing a full report and a list of repairs that need to be completed.

The city’s attorney, Mike Schuster, was also asked to review the lease agreement, determining what can be done to enforce the terms of the lease.

“We need to crack down on the lease,” councilman Joe Muehlbauer said. “This is an ongoing problem. How many times have they violated the lease? They haven’t played fair and done their part to keep up the marina. The docks are in disrepair.”

“I have nothing against the Sporleders,” he added, “but the waterfront is our pride and joy.”

Councilwoman Rogeta Halvorson echoed that statement and also worried someone could get hurt: “It makes us look bad. It needs maintaining.”

Short-term rentals

The council passed the second reading of an ordinance pertaining to short-term vacation rentals, with Hallberg, Muehlbauer and Halvorson voting “yes” and Carroll and Jason Echard voting “no.”

If passed, the ordinance would allow short-term rentals, through sites like Airbnb, in the city. It would also require people doing so to get a one-time, $25-permit from the city and collect hotel/motel tax.

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