GIBSON CITY — The committee exploring options to replace Gibson City’s aging swimming pool heard the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor swimming pools during a presentation Monday by Andrew Kieser, a project manager for Fehr Graham, an engineering and environmental company based in Champaign.
Kieser was accompanied by Michelle Brown, who handles grants and public relations for Fehr Graham. The two presented a few photos of pools for discussion.
A straw poll of the committee indicated the group was leaning toward the idea of building an indoor pool to replace the existing 98-year-old pool facility located at the southeast corner of Lott Boulevard and 14th Street. However, a final decision is far from being made.
Kieser said the hardest part of maintaining an indoor pool is controlling the heat and humidity. The pool’s enclosure also needs to be built of materials that can withstand the corrosive tendencies of an environment of heat and humidity. That can be done, he said, but the key is proper ventilation and installation of the correct heating and air-handling equipment.
Committee members indicated that of the two indoor pools they toured recently, the humidity was a problem at the one in Flanagan but not at the one in Pontiac. Mayor Dan Dickey, who chairs the committee, said that learning from lessons of pools designed correctly should provide guidelines and avoid reinventing something else.
Kieser said he had helped fix problems made by a previous contractor at the Urbana Park District’s indoor pool that is shared with Urbana schools. Kieser said the heating and ventilation system was installed completely opposite of what it should have been.
Member Jan Hall, a former alderman and the committee’s secretary, said she hoped that if an indoor pool is pursued in Gibson City, it could be designed to be open to the outdoors at certain times, either by a moveable wall or roof designs.
Kieser said that type of design is possible but problematic due to corrosion control, utility costs and inconsistent weather patterns. Kieser said he felt the number of days it would be beneficial to operate as an indoor/outdoor facility would be limited.
Maintenance of humidity, temperature and chemicals is the key to successful indoor pool operation, Kieser said. One of the main issues with an indoor pool’s chemicals is proper cross ventilation to control the tendency of chlorine gas to build up on the water’s surface. “If you smell chlorine, you’ve got a problem,” Kieser said.
Items that need to be considered in the design of an indoor pool include epoxy paint, a potential specialized surfacing material, masonry walls, fiberglass elements, and sufficient insulation for roof and walls from exterior temperatures.
In response to a question from committee member and pool manager Randy Ferguson, Kieser said an indoor pool could be constructed from stainless steel with a PVC liner, but never from aluminum. The more common alternative would be to build the pool using poured and formed concrete.
Dickey asked which type of pool would last longer, and Kieser said an indoor pool would last longer than an outdoor pool due to not being exposed to sun and cold temperatures.
Dickey also asked if solar energy was an option, and Kieser answered: “It doesn’t pay off.”
During discussions, committee members determined that considering a design to accommodate a Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School swim team was not a likely partnership because there are no other teams in the Heart of Illinois Conference. However, the possibility of the GCMS school district offering swimming as a physical education class should be investigated, they said.
Committee member Paul Phillips, who is employed by Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services, said the committee needs to do three things: (1) finish touring successful area pools to get ideas, (2) determine partnership possibilities for either design considerations or cost sharing and (3) pursue a design and cost estimate for whatever direction is decided.
Phillips said he had discussed a possible financial and facility usage partnership with the hospital’s chief executive officer, Rob Schmitt. Phillips said that, due to the two-story addition the hospital is currently building, Schmitt would not push for a financial commitment toward a new community pool at this time. Phillips also noted the hospital organization already has a therapy pool at its clinic in Paxton.
Kieser said he would arrange for the committee to take a tour of the heated outdoor pool at Lincolnshire Country Club, which he designed, and the indoor pool at the Champaign YMCA for zero-entrance and other design ideas.
Ferguson said he would contact Bruce Hawkins of Spear Corp., a commercial aquatics supplier which Kieser often works with and which also supplies the current Gibson City pool’s chemical supplies, for potential additional pools to tour.
Kieser was told that Mike Friend, an engineer with the Farnsworth Group, had previously made a presentation to the committee.
“We’re doing what we should be doing in researching all avenues available to a community our size,” Ferguson said.
“We just need more information,” Phillips said.