Mechanical issues drop Plaza Pool temp

News Photo by Julie Riddle Swimmers enjoy the cooler-than-usual water at the Alpena County Plaza Pool during a free family swim on Friday.

ALPENA — Swimmers may have noticed a chill at the Alpena County Plaza Pool after significant mechanical issues lowered the temperature of the water and pool deck and a worldwide parts shortage stalled the parts needed to create a fix.

Officials had to close the pool for at least a short time earlier this month after starters on two of four mechanical units led to cold water and a significant drop in water levels, Alpena County Administrator Mary Catherine Hannah told the Alpena County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting on Friday.

Some $35,000 from the Alpena County general fund will go to help the pool keep its doors open and its water warm, the commissioners decided.

The mechanical repairs and accompanying expenses – including the cost of dehumidifiers brought in to control excess evaporation, systems working overtime to heat water, and fresh water pool staff added to compensate for increased evaporation – ate up the pool’s budget for the year as of a few weeks ago, Hannah told the board.

Pool passes and swim lesson registrations are up over last year, but not enough to offset the pool’s unexpected expenses — which include a $6,000 upcoming water bill, much higher than the usual $1,200-or-so cost for maintaining pool levels, said Norm Sommerfeld, owner of the management company that oversees the pool.

As of Friday, the pool had returned nearly to regular temperature and water levels were stable.

Workers addressing pool repairs believe an unusual drop in water level will right itself with the repairs that are now complete, but, should the water level continue to fall, pool staff will need to drain the pool to check for leaks at the pool’s skimmer valve or main drain, Hannah said.

Multiple agencies support the pool financially – including, Sommerfeld said, volunteers who brought in $33,000 in fundraisers last year – but the unusual circumstances at what Hannah called a “very well-loved” 50-year-old community amenity call for an extra boost from the county, she said.

To raise extra funds, the pool could have considered hosting a polar plunge, Commissioner Bob Adrian suggested, to the amusement of the board.

The Alpena Board of Commissioners on Friday also:

* expressed its intent to commit to a service that connects property owners to financing for energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy projects. The service will add no cost to the county, Adrian said, and the public will have opportunity to weigh in before the county officially commits to the service, called Lean and Green Michigan. An Alpena property owner hopes to use funding through the service to build a hotel, a Lean and Green representative said.

* agreed to change a 1998 policy to allow the county to house its funds with credit unions. With fewer banks open than in the past, Alpena County Treasurer Kim Ludlow said, she needs the commissioners’ OK to approach credit unions about the roughly $4 million she hopes to disburse within the county.

* agreed to proceed with creating a human resources position for the county. The new full-time employee will report to the commissioners and will handle benefits, insurance, hiring, and other human resources issues, many of which have previously been handled by the County Clerk’s office.

Upon the retirement of a clerk’s office employee effective next week, following the announced retirement of County Clerk Bonnie Friedrichs, the office will move from five employees to four at the same time the new human resources position takes on some former County Clerk -performed duties, creating what Hannah called an overall neutral impact on the county budget.

Friedrichs told the board that the clerk’s office may need to take on at least part-time help or even go back to five employees but said now is a good time to move human resources-related issues under the auspices of the commissioners.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.


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