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PAXTON — Plans are under way to make the public swimming pool at Coady Park more handicapped-accessible using the $37,000 left over from a community fundraiser.
After the pool had been closed for the summer of 2011, the Save Our Pool Committee was formed and raised $67,731 to help cover costs needed to renovate the pool’s main drain and re-open the facility in 2012.
After spending about $30,740 on necessities — such as $6,977 for the services of Foth Engineering and $5,261 to Emberson Quality Plumbing, which included the $210 repair of a boiler drain — the park district had $36,991 left over from the funds collected by the Save our Pool Committee.
The committee is using the majority of its surplus on giving a lift of its own — to the disabled members of the Paxton community.
Among one of the features to be purchased for the park district-owned pool is a battery-operated, portable lift with a capacity of 350 pounds. With the lift, handicapped patrons at the pool — including those in a wheelchair — will be allowed to enter and exit the pool.
The project will cost $6,831.
The park district’s recreational director, Neal McKenry, said the lift should be delivered in a few weeks and be ready for use when the pool opens Memorial Day weekend.
“Hopefully, we get some good use out of it,” McKenry said. “I don’t want to pay about $6,900 for something that’s never going to get used.”
Also, at an expense of $10,730, two contracts have been signed with Emberson Plumbing, Heating and Cooling to install new bathroom fixtures and floor drains, as well as replacing two old water heaters with a new energy-efficicient, on-demand water heater.
As well as installing new sinks and a new water heater, the project will replace two bathroom stalls with one handicapped-accessible stall.
A $7,600 contract was signed with Adkins Masonry to widen the doorways to at least 36 inches wide.
“Some of our doorways were under 30 inches,” McKenry said.
The project will also level all floors in the restrooms and showers, removing lips from the shower floors, giving wheelchair patrons access to the showers.
“I don’t know if they’ll be completely flat, but they’re going to be level with a slope to the drain,” SOP Committee Treasurer Gary Popel said. “They’re going to be as level as possible.”
The park district will also spend $1,600 on a new lifeguard chair, which will have an increased height of 62 inches. The improved height will give lifeguards a wider area of view for the pool area.
The new changes were made to get the pool in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which set new standards in 2010 (and updated them in May 2012) that require all new pool facilities built by state and local governments, public accommodations and commercial facilities to be accessible to — and usable by — persons with disabilities.
“I’m not opposed at all to making our swimming pool available to everybody that wants to use it. If a handicapped person wants to use it — and this is what it requires — that’s fine,” Popel said. “We’re going to do what they want us to do. We’re going to be as legal as we can be. Hopefully, when they come by and inspect us, they’ll give us a clean bill of health and say, ‘Go ahead and open it up and have fun’ instead of just constantly fighting these things.”
Without the money raised by the Save our Pool committee, Popel, the park district would not have a pool, let alone one the met the ADA standards.
“We’re not in any kind of a park budget at all,” Popel said. “Without that in the budget, they had no way to be able to come up with the money to do all of these. Since we had gathered this much money for the pool — and the pool had not cost what it was originally thought to cost — we feel spending this on the Americans with Disability Act improvements are a legitimate expense that the people that donated the money in good faith for the drain aren’t going to be opposed to us using the money for the pool and for these improvements.
“I want to thank all the people of Paxton that put their faith in the Save our Pool committee and gave us their money. We hope that we did them proud.”
According to the ADA, public accommodations such as the Paxton Park District’s pool must be accessible to individuals with disabilities unless doing so results in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program or in an undue financial and administrative burden.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act is somewhat lenient,” McKenry said. “If an agency’s able to submit proof that complying to all this stuff would put them under a financial burden, they can get a pass for a while. They would just have to set up a rough timeframe to when you were going to comply and how you would be able to do it. If we didn’t have this, that’s probably a step we would have taken. Obviously, our pool doesn’t make a whole lot of money. It loses money every year, but we’re not in the business of making money. We’re in the business to provide a service to the community, and I think we’ll do a good job with this.”
With the money received from the SOP, McKenry said he did not want to take any chances with ADA violations.
“It’s weird because ADA compliances are overseen by the Department of Justice on the federal level,” McKenry said. “You can assume that nobody from the Department of Justice is going to come to Paxton and check up on things, but we didn’t want to run that small risk. If we weren’t compliant and somebody came into the pool — who happened to be disabled — and ran into a situation, they could actually file a lawsuit against us and sue us for the amount that it would cost to make the renovations. As unlikely as that is, we didn’t need to mess around. Luckily, we had these funds left over and we were able to make the majority of the fixes that need to be made.”
The park district will also spend $2,329 to replace the chain-link fence around the wading pool. The new fence will include a self-closing and locking gate, as required by the Illinois Department of Health.
“I want to do it because it will look nicer,” McKenry said. “You need a self-closing gate in a kiddie pool so kids can’t run out and escape. Our gate, at one point, was self-closing, but we needed a new one, so we’re getting a whole upgrade around there.”
With construction already under way on the new doorways, McKenry said the new projects should be finished before May.
“We’re not in a huge hurry,” McKenry said. “I told them I don’t need it done until May, but I think they’ll get it done by the end of February. It’ll be nice to get it done really early. There’s no real timeframe for it. All they need to do is get it done by May, and I’ll be happy. I can guarantee it’ll be noticeable when people come out to the pool. They’ll see it. It’ll look a little different.”
The new projects will use up $29,091 of the SOP’s money, leaving $7,900 to be saved — McKenry said — in case of emergency.
“I don’t want to spend it just to spend it,” McKenry said. “I want to spend it to do something for the pool.”
Park Board President Eric Evans said the money will be used solely on the pool.
“We’re going to use money very wisely,” Evans said. “It’s not going to be used for anything outside of the pool. The money belongs to the Save our Pool ommittee. They gave it to us to get the pool up and running. Any leftover money we have, they have given to us to use for the pool, particularly to make it more handicapped accessible. We’re making improvements that were needed to be done. The way everything’s changing, the pool needed to be updated.”
McKenry also said the park district will spend its own money on some new picnic tables around the pool.