County Signs On With Funds for Crozet Park Pool Dome

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Heidi Sonen speaking to the Board of Supervisors.
Heidi Sonen speaking to the Board of Supervisors.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors agreed to a proposal from the Claudius Crozet Park Board Jan. 11 and provided $200,000 earmarked for other improvements at the park to go instead to the installation of a dome over the pool, making the pool a year-round facility. In exchange, the park is taking responsibility for installing new tennis and basketball courts and a perimeter walking trail around the park that the county had set aside $200,000 in 2009 to pay for. Park officials needed the okay for the projects swap in January in order to proceed with a construction schedule that would not interfere with the summer swim season. The pool dome, which will be removed during the warm months, is slated to be installed in September.

County Parks and Recreation Director Bob Crickenberger commended Crozet park leaders and area citizens for raising $422,000 to install the dome, but cautioned the supervisors as they prepared to consider the request that it had not been reviewed by the county’s Technical Review Team or Oversight Committee, which he called “a broader policy issue.” He also warned that the current arrangement in which the YMCA will manage the pool might come undone and that might cause Crozet park leaders to come back to the county for money to operate the facility.

“At this point the staff supports the PARC [the acronym of the aquatic and recreation center],” Crickenberger said, but the staff nonetheless wanted a performance bond from Crozet park leaders that would guarantee that the park would do the work on the swapped projects to the same quality standard that the county would.

Hearing that, Supervisor Dennis Rooker noted that the original language of the authorization for the projects gave some flexibility to the board and that a performance bond needn’t be required. “The volunteer effort should get some respect,” he said. “It’s getting something done.”

Supervisor Duane Snow noted that the project will be handled by Barton Malow, a national construction management company, “not some guy with a pick-up.”

The staff asked to have one of its members assigned to the construction management team.

“We can multiply the effect of our $200,000 more than three times,” said Rooker. “Because of private fundraising for a public park, we have a good opportunity to provide a swimming facility in the western part of the county. We already allocated the $200,000 to the park. What’s the best way to use it?”

Supervisor Ken Boyd resisted the transfer, saying he didn’t like the way the proposal had come to the board, which involved a revised version of the agreement being delivered to the county attorney at lunchtime on the day of the meeting. Park officials said that was done to satisfy demands for changes that the county staff had made. They had given the agreement to the county in early December, they said.

“I can’t vote for it,” declared Boyd, perhaps forgetting the procedural shenanigans of his own effort to resurrect the moribund western bypass of Route 29 around Charlottesville. But when the vote was eventually called for, he said yes.

Boyd also accused Mallek of “negotiating with the park without the full knowledge of the board.” Mallek replied that she had talked to the park’s leaders but had not made any deals with them.

“Reallocating money means we can use the park year-round,” said Snow. “We need a building that’s heated and air-conditioned.” The park had requested the transfer so that the building next to the pool could be renovated to include heated locker rooms.

“This has been a long [project],” noted Supervisor Ann Mallek. “It was being talked about before I came on the board.”

“Thousands of volunteer hours have been put in on this and they are worth more than $600,000,” Snow argued.

Rooker observed that according to the Crozet park’s timeline, “the tennis courts will be built faster than under the plan we had. This is not a new appropriation.”

County Attorney Larry Davis told the board that the staff expected that the park would pay the county back the $200,000 so that the county could be able to do the projects. “At some point there was a misunderstanding with the park that the staff was not aware of.” He said the last minute revisions to do the agreement the PARC submitted were necessary to deal with “issues.” Park leaders said they thought the swap of projects idea had been agreed to by county officials in the fall.

Davis said the county was concerned that if the park spent $200,000 to build just the tennis courts, it might consider that it had met its obligation to the county and then not do the basketball courts or the trail.

Heidi Sonen, representing the park board, told the supervisors that $51,000 had been raised in December to bring the project to its funding goal (not counting the County’s $200,00 contribution). Sonen said the park’s master plan is to be a full-service public park and it is committed to realizing all the features in the plan.

“It’s a community park and we realize we need to raise the money,” she said. “We need your vote now so we can hit the opportunity we have for our volunteers to do their part.” She meant the construction schedule, according to which firms like Barton Malow are donating or discounting their contribution. If the schedule were to collapse, park leaders worried that volunteers may not be able to make their same offer.

Sonen called the requirement of a performance bond “pretty rough” and Philip Kirby, a senior executive of Barton Malow and a resident of Parkside Village, came to the microphone to say that “the issue of a performance bond is a on a job-by-job basis. There’s not a huge liability in a walking trail or a tennis court.”

Mallek said she hoped that having a year-round pool would mean that swimming could be a part of school physical education programs for elementary school students around Crozet. She lamented the drownings of young children who had not yet learned to swim.

As it emerged that the will of the board was to agree to the proposal made by the park, Mallek made a motion to release the $200,000 and Rooker seconded it. The vote was 6-0.

“You’re not sitting back expecting the government to do everything for you,” Mallek said to the park supporters. The Western Albemarle High School swimming teams also turned out to watch the proceedings.