Pool is more in the swim

Little by little, Covington Aquatic Center gets upgraded.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:08pm
  • News
Pearl Mueller of Covington

Pearl Mueller of Covington

Little by little, Covington Aquatic Center gets upgraded.

Before King County transferred ownership of the pool to the city of Covington in 2004, all new overhead lighting was installed, a boiler was replaced, two new hot water tanks were installed and the outside of the building was painted. The county also put in a water slide.

During the past two years, the city has been doing various projects at the Aquatic Center.

“On top of that, (the county) gave the city $250,000 in anticipation of capital improvement projects,” said Pat Patterson, the city’s recreation and aquatics manage. “I think that’s what they had budgeted for the next five years.”

The original plan had been to combine that cash with money that state Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-47th District), and County Councilman Reagan Dunn put together to pay for the first phase of a proposed three-phase renovation of the pool. The balance would have come from money raised through a proposed metropolitan taxing district that was on the November 2006 ballot.

With the district proposal not passing, Patterson said, “we chose to use the county money to do other enhancements to the facility.”

Patterson said the aquatic center was one of the only county pools transferred to cities that didn’t close while the city and county negotiated the transfer. He said that some cities resisted ownership transfers and as a result, some of the pools closed.

“King County said that Covington was one of the easiest to deal with in terms of those transfers,” he said.

Patterson described the various upgrades the city has done.

“We re-plastered and re-tiled the entire pool area,” he said. “If you go to some of those other pools that were originally King County pools, they had painted red and yellow lines. We incorporated that into the tile pattern so it’s not going to come off. The paint’s not lifted.”

When the pool was re-plastered rather than using typical white sand, Patterson explained, they used colored quartz which is much stronger.

“We re-finished the bulkhead, painted the entire natatorium, and that was done almost entirely by the staff,” Patterson said. “Then the bleachers – rather than replace them ,because that can be very costly, we used a product that’s called Perma Cap. It’s made of 20 percent recyclable material and it just snapped right over the existing bleachers. It’s plastic, so it stands up to the environment.”

That environment, at least at the moment, is fairly warm and humid, given that the original heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit for the pool is still in operation despite that it’s more than 30 years old. Plus, it’s pulling outside air into the building to control humidity, according to aquatics supervisor Ethan Newton, which he said doesn’t make much sense given the weather here.

The aging HVAC system leaks. A pool of water has formed on the floor below it, while the metal of the system has a serious rust problem, according to officials.

Patterson said the hope is to replace the HVAC unit this year. Officials are working on the bid process and finding a contractor.

“We didn’t use all of the money that we had that was transferred from King County on this initial project,” he said. “There was a little bit left that will apply to the HVAC system.”

Sullivan also helped the city get $350,000 from the state in 2006, but when the district ballot measure didn’t pass and that money was appropriated specifically to complement the taxes that would have been collected, the city was in danger of losing the cash infusion.

City manager Derek Matheson worked with Sullivan to “have that money re-appropriated specifically for the heating and ventilation system,” Patterson said. “That was huge. It will really help the facility.”

Many of the other changes are obvious to regular patrons of the pool. An aging mural was decomissioned by 4Culture after long outliving its original expectancy of seven years. All the walls were re-painted white from gray, which Patterson said brightened the facility, plus energy-efficient LED lights were installed for underwater illumination.

Once the HVAC system is upgraded, the change will also be noticeable, officials said. Pool employees have fans blowing in their offices, but stepping onto the pool deck is like stepping outside on a humid day in the southern U.S. Sweat instantly starts to bead up on foreheads, and the heat is stifling. The goal is to have a new HVAC system installed by the end of the year.

“The city’s committed to enhance the facility, to make it more appealing and comfortable for our customers,” Patterson said. “The most remarkable thing is we’re able to do this whole project without any additional (taxpayer) funding.”

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and khill@reporternewspapers.com

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