The Waunakee Village Board voted to approve a contract with a swimming-pool design and consulting firm to help plan for a municipal swimming pool Monday.

The action resumes initial planning begun in August 2019, when village staff heard strong support for a pool during a large public meeting. A survey of the community as part of the comprehensive plan process in 2017 also showed more than 60 percent of respondents supported some of form of aquatic facility.

The COVID-19 pandemic “caused a stumbling block” in the pool planning effort, Village Administrator Todd Schmidt explained at the board’s meeting Sept. 20.

Schmidt said he and Community Services Director Sue McDade had solicited proposals from the aquatics industry and had a diligent process to review them. They were prepared to bring one firm forward when the pandemic put the project on hold and caused them to focus on other community needs.

Schmidt said Village President Chris Zellner through that time “challenged us to continue being ready, keeping our eyes and ears open, and that process has brought us new information.” Monday they recommended approving the contract with Counsilman-Hunsaker Aquatics for Life for the planning process.

Counsilman-Hunsaker anticipates the work to span 120 days; the contract cost is $32,150. In a memo to the board, McDade notes that the village board had previously approved and set aside $50,000 for an aquatics center feasibility study.

In the next four months, consultants with the firm will meet with a steering committee and community groups “to analyze the needs and determine the objectives,” according to the feasibility study agreement. They will also participate in meetings to determine a needs profile and compile demographic data that could affect the project’s viability.

The group will also prepare a design of the center and estimated construction costs. Their analysis will also include operational costs.

“Deciding what is best for the village when it comes to aquatics is not a simple question,” McDade told the board.

While some communities know they want an outdoor pool, McDade said in discussion with local residents, “there has been a very wide range of opinions about what is best,” she said.

McDade said Counsilman-Hunsaker specializes only in aquatics and are experts in the field.

“They have experience all the way from a really nice spray park in a local neighborhood park all the way to a multi-million dollar aquatics facility that might bring people to our community just for that purpose,” McDade said.

McDade said she doesn’t know which direction Waunakee will go but feels the consulting firm has the experience to help village staff through the conversation as they figure out the best fit.

Zellner said the board had authorized staff to move forward with a contract before shelving the project. He said he would like to have a referendum for the spring election.

“This is something that’s been talked about in the community. I’ve been very supportive of a community pool… here in Waunakee that would be very affordable for everybody to use,” Zellner said, adding that Counsilman-Hunsaker will provide opportunities for community discussion.

Because this is something new for the community, Zellner said he would like to take it to referendum to let the residents decide.

Other news:

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board:

-approved the Ho-Chunk Nation Land Acknowledgment after a public hearing. Three residents spoke in favor of the board’s adoption of the acknowledgment. Robert McPherson said he hoped “this is the beginning of a continued conversation.”

-approved a one-year contract with Quartz for the village employees’ insurance plan. The board heard a discussion from staff and a consultant comparing a possible switch to Dean, which would keep the rates the same. Instead, board members said they did not want to force employees to change providers at this time. Quartz is implementing a 12% increase in its rates. The employer contribution to the plan will decrease from 95% to 88%, causing a rise in the monthly employee contribution.

-approved the appointment of Tricia Braun to the Community Development Authority. She will replace Jeffrey Smith, who had been unable to attend meetings.

-took no action on the sale of the village-owned property at Reeve Drive, which is currently leased to Country View Apartment.

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