Nearly two years after voters approved a pool district, as well as funds for construction and operation of pool, members of the Madras Aquatic Center Board of Directors are cautiously optimistic that there are no more major setbacks ahead.
By mid-October, they plan to go out for bid on the project once again, but this time, they expect to have more than one bidder. When the project went out to bid in May, Robinson Construction of Bend was the only bidder at $8.2 million -- $1.7 million higher than the $6.5 million expected to be used for construction from the $8.1 million bond levy approved by voters in November of 2004.
Project manager Mike Marino negotiated with the company, but in the end, the MAC board decided to have some of the less important features redesigned by Opsis Architects of Portland to reduce costs, and rebid the project.
"We haven't touched the pools," said David Evans, board chairman. "There are aesthetic changes, finish changes, but in terms of functionality, it's still the same."
The main features of the project include a 25-yard long lap pool, to accommodate a future high school swim team; a recreation pool with a water slide and a lazy river; and a 10-person spa on the west end of the building.
The six-lane lap pool will accommodate flip turns in the 4-foot-deep shallow end and scuba diving lessons in the 12-foot deep end.
"We all wanted eight lanes, but we had to make some hard choices," said board member Ted Viramonte, explaining that each additional lane costs $150,000. "It won't stop us from having meets; they will be three-day meets rather than two-day meets."
The aquatic center will be located southwest of Jefferson County Middle School on a 3.5-acre parcel donated by the Bean Foundation. Site preparation has already been completed, Viramonte said, so when a winning bidder is selected by mid-November, "The contractor can go to work immediately."
The process of getting a pool district up and running -- with legal counsel, by-laws, a project manager -- and then selling bonds, selecting an architectural firm, and hiring a manager for the aquatic center has been fraught with unexpected difficulties.
"It has been harder than any of us thought it would be," said Evans, noting that the five-member board has met as frequently as once a week, depending on what needed to be done. "We've got a good, strong board that's very committed."
On Sept. 14, the board signed a contract with Robert DeSilva, who formerly managed five pools for the parks and recreation department in the Pasadena, Calif. area. As the pool manager, DeSilva will begin work Nov. 1 to set up policies and procedures, arrange for lifeguard training, and plan programming for the pool.
The board hopes that the new bidding process will yield a successful bidder who can construct the aquatic center over the next year. Originally scheduled for completion in March of 2007, the new timeline will have the MAC finished by next fall.
"It's been a very frustrating endeavor for everybody," said Evans. "We've got a saturated building market and escalating construction costs and we're trying to engineer the best value for the dollar."
The pools will be low-maintenance Myrtha Pools. The Italian firm pre-engineers modular swimming pool sections out of stainless steel, permanently laminated with a hard, PVC layer.
"On the rest of the planet, they are the number 1 manufacturer of swimming pools," said Viramonte. Juniper Swim and Fitness Center in Bend has two Myrtha Pools, he pointed out.
While most of the interior has remained the same, the exterior of the building has been modified to cut costs. "We have much more traditional lines now," Viramonte said, noting that in the previous plans, the walls were cantilevered out.
The exterior features architecturally-designed concrete masonry walls with a look similar to brick, extensive glass, and cedar planking to accent the walls.
Energy-saving measures remain a high priority, potentially including solar panels on the south-facing roof, which are expected to cut utility bills significantly, high-efficiency boilers for pool heating, automatic shutoffs for lavoratories, and low-maintenance landscaping. "It's designed with great efficiency in mind," said Evans.
Evans is confident that the community will be pleased with the end product. "It's better to do it right than fast," he said.