By ROSS BROWN
GIBSON CITY — For 98 years, Gibson City has had a swimming pool at the southeast corner of Lott Boulevard and 14th Street.
Established first as a private club and then given to the city and rebuilt into three separate pools about 50 years ago, the concrete facility is showing its age, with crumbling concrete and a snack area not being wheelchair accessible.
But after an attempted private fundraising drive six years ago failed to raise enough money to finance a new pool, city council members are stepping forward with a plan of their own.
On Monday night, council members approved forming a five-person exploratory committee that will visit area swimming facilities and discuss recommendations for the Gibson City pool’s future look.
"We probably have two years left on our pool — this summer and next summer," said Mayor Dan Dickey. "We have to get real serious about looking at doing something."
The exploratory committee is chaired by Dickey and includes Alderman Susie Tongate, former alderman Jan Hall, pool manager Randy Ferguson and pool board member Paul Phillips.
Dickey said the group will look into a potential design for the pool and what it will cost.
"We’re going to talk to industry experts, and we’re going to come up with a pool that we think will fit Gibson City," Dickey said. "We’re going to get costs and put it together and then present it to the council."
During a committee meeting at City Hall in December 2017, Ferguson told council members that the concrete holding the pool in place has deteriorated through decades of use to the point where it can be carved through with a metal object. Ferguson also said that installing a temporary pool liner — similarly to what Paxton did with its pool — would only push the problem down the road and potentially make it worse.
Tongate said the city would likely look at state grants as a way to pay for a new facility. The million-dollar Build Gibson City Pool fundraising campaign in 2013 did raise $250,000 — far less than hoped for — but that money can still be used for the project. A portion of businessman Wally Lamb’s estate is also earmarked for the pool, although council members diverted a portion of that toward the Gibson City Rotary Club’s North Park improvement project last summer.
Tongate said a new swimming facility would likely consist of one large pool featuring a combination of deep and shallow depths, but Tongate noted that the committee has not met, so that is only one possibility.
The current facility is actually three separate pools — a wading pool for toddlers, a lap pool and a 16-foot diving pool.
The current facility is not in imminent danger, Tongate said, but upgrades that have been pushed back far too long need to be addressed.
"It’s definitely going to be usable this year — no doubt about that — but we just know that it’s been around a lot of years and there are some things that we just can’t repair anymore, and so it’s time to begin looking at what it will take to replace it and put in something newer and nicer that will be accessible to more people," Tongate said.
In other business during Monday’s meeting:
➜ Council members voted unanimously to revise the city’s ordinance code pertaining to installation of water lines and meters. City Superintendent Randy Stauffer said the city was losing money on its old pricing formula. Residents will now be charged for the cost of materials plus 10 percent.
➜ Alderman Nelda Jordan asked Stauffer why the city was charged for tree-removal work done by Wright’s Tree Service at the request of Ameren Illinois. Stauffer said Wright Tree Service has cut down large trees on the city’s right-of-way and does not haul the material away, so the city paid for Tom Barrow to haul away large limbs. Stauffer mentioned that the city has fewer than 100 ash trees left standing, all of which could be removed this summer.
➜ Council members agreed to spend up to $400 to rent portable toilets for use at McMillen Field during softball events this spring. Stauffer said local softball teams have games there beginning in late March, but the field’s bathroom facilities will not be unlocked until late spring in case of freezing temperatures.
➜ The council approved an addendum to the subdevelopment agreement with Phillips-Warner Realty, owner of the Villas of Holly Brook assisted-living facility.
➜ Eric Tjarks’ request for a liquor event license for a Shriners concert on July 6 at Sammer’s was granted, and the council granted the American Legion post’s request to sell flags at two city intersections on April 26.