The city of Aiken is moving forward with an estimated $1.2 million project to dramatically redo and refine the Smith-Hazel Recreation Center pool facility, a Northside community anchor and summertime attraction.
The Aiken City Council on Monday night unanimously approved borrowing no more than $750,000 from city coffers to help fund the Smith-Hazel pool project. The venture was selected for Capital Projects Sales Tax 4 funding last year.
"Due to a higher bid than anticipated we need an additional $750,000 to complete the project," reads an Oct. 14 memo from Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh.
The city issued a public request for qualifications for the Smith-Hazel project; just one response was received, a source of some consternation.
Mayor Rick Osbon and City Council member Dick Dewar were not present for the Monday meeting or vote. Dewar, though, submitted written comments, which were read aloud.
The District 3 representative, via his statement, called for a fixed-price contract as well as aggressive monitoring of the project with reports out to City Council, among other things.
The Smith-Hazel pool facility is approximately three decades old and had begun to show its age.
It was closed around March in anticipation of the major renovation and has since been demolished. The city has previously said the pool would be open for the 2020 swimming season, a point City Council member Gail Diggs has periodically raised.
The Smith-Hazel pool project involves redoing, essentially, everything: the pool itself, the pool deck, the equipment room, the bathrooms and the general footprint.
The new pool would accommodate a maximum of 150 people and would feature a sloped splash zone and a slide, according to drawings and renderings provided to City Council as well as comments made by Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Jessica Campbell.
The Smith-Hazel pool had more than 1,000 visitors in 2018, Campbell said. Thats about 15-20 people per day, Bedenbaugh, the city manager, has calculated. Dewar had previously inquired about attendance.
City Council member Andrea Gregory last month said an upgraded pool would "significantly impact" the city and kids' lives and would become a destination for everyone.
"When I saw this, I just saw the potential," she has said, while also recognizing the million-dollar-plus price tag.
Diggs has described the modernization as a win for the city but especially for District 1.
The Smith-Hazel Recreation Center is located at 400 Kershaw St. N.E., near Perry Memorial Park.
City Council gave preliminary approval to the borrowing Sept. 23.