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Larned City Council revisits pool concerns
Community participation to widen
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This 2015 photo is of the Larned swimming pool. The pool has been the subject of discussion at the past two Larned City Council meetings. A committee of public officials and community members is being formed to address concerns about the condition of the pool and what direction the city wants to take to remedy them. - photo by Photo courtesy of Cathy Salmans and Kansas Photography

LARNED — Depending on what time of the year the discussion of a city swimming pool comes up, it can be seen as either a bane or a boon to a community. When it’s hot and the kids are out of school, the pool is generally seen as a vital benefit, but at budget time, the cons often outweigh the pluses. A conversation concerning the Larned City Pool, begun by City Manager Bradley Eilts at the August city council meeting, continued Tuesday night, with a request from council members to extend community participation to include the Larned High School student council.

Obsolete pool
In August, Eilts cited several concerns which were identified during 2018 Budget Work Sessions. Past its normal lifespan, the pool is leaking and losing water daily, pumps are old and worn, the filtration system is old and finding parts is becoming increasingly difficult. In addition, the decking needs to be replaced, the lifeguard stands need attention, the slide needs replaced, and there is no children’s pool.
“There really are no easy, one size fits all, or inexpensive solutions to this situation,” Eilts wrote in a summary memo to council members.
He also noted repairs or replacement can run into seven figures, and resources are limited. Recent tax lid legislation, as will as higher prioritized projects need to be considered. Still, he advanced the idea of starting to study the issue, and involve the community in the process now, in order to find a solution that reflects the needs and desires of the community.
At the suggestion of Mayor William Nusser, an exploratory committee consisting of Eilts, David Sallee, Water Department supervisor, Josh Kraisinger, Parks Department supervisor, Name Carl Nolan, swimming pool manager, and city council members Dennis Wilson and Carroll Bennett was formed.

Lift one bright spot
The conversation continued Tuesday night, beginning with a report from Kraisinger. After a summary of projects undertaken at the city cemetery, he reported on findings during the final walk through that happened at the end of the 2017 session.
In addition to the needed repairs already mentioned, he added three more. A drain in the women’s restroom will not drain, and can’t be snaked. There are no plumbing diagrams available either. A sink in the men’s restroom that was repaired prior to opening is leaking once again also. The diving board had to be closed because the mount needs repaired.
But there was one bright spot to report. The handicapped lift was used only one time over the summer, but that one use didn’t go unappreciated by the mother of the young man in need of it.
“When she came to the pool, and saw that we had the lift, she was pretty much ecstatic,” he said. Her son is too large for her to lift into the pool herself, so she usually needed to find someone to help her get him into and out of the pool. “It was the first pool she’d been to that had it.”

Splash pad concerns
Many communities in recent years have looked to splash pads as potential answers to the pools issue. But Kraisinger noted, maintenance and repairs to Larned’s splash pad are “a major thorn in my side.”
Diagnosing problems are difficult at best. And the types of problems vary from plumbing to programming issues. Kraisinger plans to call in a representative from the splash pad company to come and provide training for both the Parks and Water departments, something that hasn’t occurred since the splash pad was first installed. So far, staff members have depended on the manual provided, only leading to frustration.
“We were told to leave the system plugged in year round, but then if lightning strikes and the power goes out, it can take three hours trying to reprogram it, and it never does work right,” he said. An outside contractor was called to reprogram the unit two years ago, and spent hours on the phone with the company’s technical support attempting to reprogram. Each component of the system, he said, also requires programming.
“The book they give you basically describes what everything does, but it doesn’t tell you how to program it,” he said.

Looking ahead to 2019 budget
Prior to adjourning, Eilts asked to speak briefly about the pool. He asked to bring on Lenny Herrman to staff the pool committee. Herrman is a Larned police officer and has been working at the city office to gain management experience, Eilts explained.
“I think he would be a great addition to our committee,” he said.
Eilts also shared his plan to expand community participation. He asked the council to allow him to advertise the positions. Applications will be taken and council members will select one applicant per councilperson.
He also suggested Kraisinger lead a tour of the pool for the council.
“Hopefully in the Spring or early Summer of next year, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what is going on right in time for the next budget season,” he said. “I think it’s a win-win.”
Councilman Jason Murray recommended another meeting be held later in September at the pool. Councilman Kim Barnes requested Eilts and Nusser send a letter of invitation to the Larned High School Student Council to participate with the city council during the next year and provide input.
“We haven’t had a high school student come and see us in several years,” he said. “It would be good to hear from them since they are the up and coming generation.”
The council affirmed Eilts committee suggestions, and the meeting was then adjourned. The date of a September meeting could not be decided on prior to adjournment, but the public will be notified through the media when a date can be confirmed.