The Village of Waunakee seems poised to take the initial steps in planning for a pool or some sort of recreational water feature.

At their June 5 meeting, The Waunakee Parks and Recreation Committee voted to accept a $1,585 contract with Ayres Associates to host a public listening session and discuss any next steps with local officials, depending on that session’s outcome. The contract is pending village board approval.

Chris Zellner, committee member and village president, said on recent surveys, including one conducted for the 2017 Waunakee Westport Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation plan, a pool or splash pad was the No. 1 request from respondents.

“I thought it was appropriate from a timing perspective for us to start looking at this,” Zellner said, adding that Phil Willems, another parks and recreation committee member, has often talked about the addition of a splash park to Waunakee.

Ayres consultants would kick off the listening process, said Sue McDade, Waunakee’s community services director.

“We really want to make sure, before we move forward in any direction, that we give the community as a whole the ability to come in, learn a little bit about what options are out there, what other communities might be looking at, everywhere from just a spray splash park all the way to an aquatic system,” McDade said. “There’s options and opportunities all the way along that continuum.”

The experts would present various aquatic facility plans at the listening session, and the hope is community members would then help guide the effort forward.

Ayres’ contract notes that the project manager will “have a long list of successful aquatic facility and park design examples” for community members to consider.

Based on input from that meeting, whether residents prefer a small or large facility, the parks and recreation committee could proceed from there.

Parks committee member John Pomeranke noted that when his children were young, they visited either the Sun Prairie or Middleton pools, or Six Mile Creek.

Willems explained that the Waunakee Rotary Club formed a committee interested in fundraising for a splash park. That idea was put on hold so that if a larger pool were built, it could be part of that facility.

Community member Gary Herzberg said such projects need a community group behind them helping to fundraise.

“I think it has to be driven by the community,” he said, adding that will be key to the village board’s support.

A citizens committee could emerge from the listening session, McDade added.

McDade recommended Ayres for the initial contract because of its expertise in building aquatic facilities in Wisconsin. The consultants know how much acreage would be needed for each option and the approximate costs.

Willems said the contract expenditure would “probably be money well spent. We could get some answers.”

Herzberg noted that at the June 3 Waunakee Village Board meeting, trustees looked at a list of potential capital projects and their budget impacts, including a pool.

“We looked at 2026 for a pool and we looked at the impact of 2022. There really was not a big impact if we moved it forward, not a budget impact either way,” Zellner added.

Committee member Bob Khouri said he liked the idea of the meeting but the timing – the July parks and recreation meeting – could be better if it were not in the middle of summer.

Khouri also suggested the listening session be separate from the park and recreation meeting.

The consensus was that August would be a better time.

McDade agreed that a month to plan the meeting was quick but noted it should be held in the summer, rather than in September.

“When people are super hot and wish they had a pool, let’s talk about pools,” McDade said.

Two previous attempts to build a community pool have failed, the last one approximately 20 years ago, when residents voted it down in a referendum.

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