News - September 15, 2010

Menlo's Burgess baby pool closed until next spring

by Sandy Brundage

Splish, splash, babies won't be taking a bath again in the Burgess baby pool any time soon, according to aquatics center manager Tim Sheeper.

The pool's reopening is scheduled for May 2011, right about the time the facility's operating contract comes up for renewal, and 10 months after a chlorination malfunction put two children in the hospital.

The 2-year-old and 3-year-old sisters recovered from their Aug. 10 misadventure, and still take swim lessons at the center, according to Mr. Sheeper.

"Simply put, the pool was drawing in chlorine when it was not supposed to. The redesigns are to prevent this from happening," Mr. Sheeper wrote in an e-mail to The Almanac.

He said pool designers are currently comparing alternatives for dispensing chlorine that would fix the problem.

City Attorney Bill McClure said that under the terms of the lease, Team Sheeper is legally responsible for maintenance and incidents at the pools, and carries insurance to that effect.

The City Council in August agreed to request bids on the contract to manage the aquatics center after the current lease expires next May.

Four years ago the previous council awarded Team Sheeper the contract to operate the $6.8 million, publicly funded facility without charging rent or asking other vendors for bids.

The request for bids asks for rates to manage the Burgess pools alone, and also for both the Burgess and Belle Haven pools. City staff estimated a base monthly rent of $19,444.

Speaking before the council on Aug. 24, Community Services Director Cherise Brandell pointed out three other areas the next contract should improve: better communication with the contractor, particularly regarding maintenance; clarification of the split between city and contractor responsibilities; and following through on preparing annual reports about the facility.

After the council requested that staff solicit more than three vendors for bids, the request went to 15 potential contractors on Aug. 27.

The Council expects to award the new contract in December.


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