WAVERLY – Even though COVID-19 could threaten the opening of the city pool for the summer, voters in Waverly will have a chance to decide on the future of the facility during the May 12 Primary Election.

There are two initiatives on the ballot regarding the proposed aquatic center, which would replace the city’s aging pool. One initiative is to approve a $3.5 million bond to pay for a portion of the project. The other would raise the city sales and use tax by .5 percent to pay for the bond. If passed, the city’s total sales and use tax would be 1.5 percent.

The final price for the aquatic center has yet to be determined. Kris Bohac with the Greater Waverly Development Foundation Fund (GWDFF) said the price tag for project could be somewhere in the $5 to $6 million range and that the organization is raising money for the amount above the $3.5 million bond. So far, $700,000 has been raised since the campaign started last fall, she added. The GWDFF was formed about a decade ago to raise money for community projects.

Bohac is also a member of the Waverly Aquatic Center committee, which has worked to bring the project to light in response to feedback from the community. An informal poll taken in 2018 indicated the one thing residents of the city would like have is a new or improved pool.

“The pool seemed to be the thing people were most interested in,” Bohac said.

After the informal poll, the GWDFF enlisted Hanna:Keelan Associates, a community planning and research firm, to conduct a community survey that yielded 600-plus responses.

Initially, the public was split almost evenly between fixing the old pool and building a new one. But further input showed the public was leaning toward building something more than just a swimming pool. The survey and feedback from meetings indicated there was interest in building an aquatic center with features not found at a 45-year-old pool.

The city-owned pool was built in 1975 and has far outlived the typical life-span of such a facility, according to experts. Although well-maintained, the aging structure is showing its age, especially in the pipes and pumping system.

The main issue is not pipes, however. It is how many people it can hold.

“The biggest problem with the current pool is just it’s not big enough,” Bohac said.

The 4,200-square-foot facility can hold about 200 people, which is not enough on a summer day when residents head to the pool to cool off.

“When it’s hot out, a significant number of days it reaches capacity and people have to wait to get in,” said Bohac.

The proposed aquatic center would more than double the size of the current pool to handle up to 400 people at a time, according to Lamp Rynearson and Associates, an engineering firm hired by the Waverly City Council to work on the project. A matching grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development helped pay for planning and pre-design services.

The pool has little to do for adults and small children, Bohac said, leading planners to seek features that would have a broader appeal beyond school-aged youth. Originally, the amenities included a zero-depth pool entry, lap lanes and water slides. The facility would also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

As planning continued and public meetings were held, the ideas began to flow and amenities like a splash area, lazy river and diving boards were added to the vision boards.

The final plans are not yet completed, but planners are hoping to begin construction on the facility after the 2020 pool season concludes. It will be located in Wayne Park, which is a logical spot, Bohac said.

“It seems like of all the places we looked at, it make the most sense,” she added.

Bohac said the $3.5 million bond will help with fundraising efforts.

“The bond will make it a lot more likely to be successfully when we apply for grants,” she said.

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