Setbacks keep Govalle, Shipe pools from reopening next summer

Govalle Pool (KXAN Photo/ Justin Hobby)
Govalle Pool (KXAN Photo/ Justin Hobby)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Due to the extensive leaks at Govalle and Shipe pools, the city of Austin says the two pools will not be ready in time for the public to use during the summer of 2018, despite their goal to reopen for the summer swim season, according to a city memorandum.

“Unfortunately we don’t anticipate the pools will be open until late 2018 early 2019,” explained Reynaldo Hernandez, project management supervisor for Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department.  Hernandez explained that the funding and design plans are already in place for both pools, the department is now caught up with complications in the city’s permitting process.

“The main reason there is a delay is probably the development services process of going through that permitting process,” Hernandez said. “That really has been a burden on these two projects.”

According to the memo, the delays are related to overall design and site reviews as well as construction contracts.

Both pools were closed this spring “in an effort to be fiscally and environmentally responsible,” the city said, adding that both pools had excessive water loss from cracks and leaks as well as code compliance issues. Shipe pool’s condition also sparked environmental concerns as it was leaking chlorinated water into a creek, the city said.

The Govalle pool is located in east Austin and Shipe pool is located in central Austin.

An aquatic assessment completed in 2014 found Govalle and Shipe pools to be “critical pools” meaning they could fail within the next five swim seasons. In 2014, city council awarded the Parks and Recreation Department $3.1 million each for improvements at the two pools.

Jasmine Kjar, 26, who was raised in the Hyde Park neighborhood and lives there now, said she was sad and disappointed that the pool wouldn’t be open in time for summer of 2018. Kjar was hoping to introduce her nearly 1-year-old daughter, Leilani, to the pool this summer. It’s where Kjar learned to swim when she was growing up.

“I think we should all come together and talk about what’s going on, especially with the pool and the park,” Kjar said. “And hopefully with all of our efforts that we can get this pool opened up for all of our young kids.”

Jack Nokes, with Friends of Shipe Park, explained that his organization had known for several months that the pool would not be open in 2018.

“Naturally, we are disappointed that the pool will not be ready for the 2018 swim season, but I think most of our group understand that this type of public project is complex and takes time,” Nokes said.

Nokes added that his group believes pools are “great investments in Austin’s quality of life, and pools should be one of our city’s priorities.”

Sylvia Arzola with the city of Austin’s Development Services Department explained that the site plan for Govalle has already been reviewed by her department. Development Services is waiting for an updated plan from an engineer at the Parks and Recreation Department before they can move forward on the pool, Arzola said. The Govalle site will need to go before the Planning Commission for approval because the property is zoned as public and is larger than an acre.

Hernandez said he hopes to have the bid advertisement for the Govalle pool in early December.

Arezola said the site plan for the Shipe pool was submitted in May of 2016, but portions of it including drainage and electric were rejected because they weren’t up to code. As with the Govalle project, Development Services is waiting for an updated plan from the engineer, Arzola said. She explained that the Govalle Pool will need to go before the Historic Landmark Commission because of a historical structure there.

Arezola added that there are some right-of-way problems with the Shipe site plan that the parks department will need to address.

She explained that it is very rare for perfect site permits to be submitted the first time around and that the pool reopening is a “big project.”

“We’re still working on some of the details for that project in terms of obtaining the permit and releasing the drawings for bid, but we hope that will happen either late in December or early in January of 2018,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez explained that Shipe was constructed in the early 1930s, which created problems once his department submitted their site plans.

“So when we submitted the drawings for Shipe, for the improvements of the pool, it was literally going back into time and catching up with all the new regulations.” Hernandez said.

He added that his department didn’t realize an alleyway that runs through the park hadn’t been accounted for and will need to be vacated. They discovered this after they began applying for permits, and have to take another 3 to 4 months to deal with that alleyway before they can submit a full permit again.

Once the department has their bids out, they can project a cost for construction. After that, council will have a time frame to approve the budget for construction. Hernandez said once that is approved they can finally begin construction. He expects construction for both sites to go on for six to nine months.

Hernandez doesn’t anticipate his department will need additional funding as a result of the delays on these projects. He added that the city will host meetings with both the Hyde Park and Govalle neighborhoods to brief them on the delays. The meeting with Shipe will be held on Nov. 6 and the meeting with Govalle will be held on Dec. 5.

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