News

November Update

Carolyn, Melynda, and Bill met with Kirsten Grigor, the swim coach at St. Stephens/St. Agnes, on November 25th in order to brief her on the 50-meter pool at Chinquapin.  She is a strong supporter of the pool because of the very limited access that the school currently has to practice at meet facilities.  We have also asked for a meeting with the swim coach at Bishop Ireton to brief him, and have previously discussed the potential new pool with the TC Williams coach as well.  This is all part of the outreach program about improving aquatics in Alexandria.

Bids for the Feasibility Study for the 50-meter pool at Chinquapin are now being evaluated by the City with contract award expected in early December.  The Contractor will issue their recommendation about he 50-meter pool by the beginning of January per the contract.  The study of other aspects of the new pools at Chinquapin will follow in further contract steps.

A meeting with Jennifer Atkins was also held in order to establish a closer working relationship with the Park and Recreation Commission.  Jennifer will be our point of contact for the Commission.  City staff was also at the meeting and everyone agreed to work towards a single set of recommendations about aquatics in the city that can be presented to City Council.

Members of AAA and City Staff visited Germantown Aquatic Center and met with Paddock Pools to learn about the benefits of concrete pools to ensure that our members are well-informed about all of the options available to the City.  Click here to view the meeting summary and learn more.

Meeting with Paddock Pools at Germantown Aquatic Center

Attendees:

  • Paddock Pools:  Mark Wilkerson, Tom Lee, Gavin Chaze
  • AAA:  Carolyn Griglione, Jeanne Gardner, Bill Rivers
  • City Staff:  Ralph Baird

 

The purpose of the meeting was to learn the benefits of concrete pool construction since we had already met with a different firm on stainless steel pool construction.   The meeting was held at the Germantown Aquatic Center in Boyds, MD.   Paddock had built it and it contained several features similar to what we want at Chinquapin.

Mark gave a presentation on how a concrete pool was built and then Tom followed up with a presentation on some new technology (and not so new) that is on the market that will better the pool experience.  We then took a tour of the facility along with the Montgomery County Recreation Center Director.

Points highlighted in the discussion were:

  • Paddock has been around for over 90 years.  They emphasized that they were an American firm that used American products in building their pools.
  • The earth at the site is excavated and used as a mold for the concrete shell.
  • As with any construction project, rebar is the key to ensuring a strong structure.
  • They use stainless steel gutters that are welded together (to avoid any gaps).
  • The concrete surface is covered with plaster – usually one to two days to do the plastering – depending upon the size of the pool.
  • Usually end up cleaning the pool surface about once a month (or when complaints are made).
  • The pools at Germantown use horizontal sand filters as well as ultraviolet filters (about $30,000 each).
  • They use a sensor driven chlorine injection system to maintain stable levels of chlorine.  More dependable than having a staff member continually checking and trying to adjust levels.
  • Concrete pools cost less to build than stainless steel pools.  Also have the benefit of fewer joints where water could leak.
  • Paddock uses a color-coded system for the pipes in the “backrooms” supporting the pools.  Much easier to identify which pipes are which.
  • There was an impressive overhead water slide built there that funneled to a play pool area with several smaller slides in the pool area itself.  The overhead slide was actually above the recreation pool to maximize use of space.  Mark indicated that large slides are space “hogs” and have to be designed to use as little space as possible, but still provide the fun experience.
  • At Germantown, they used gravity to provide the flow of water to the smaller slides.  The overhead slide emptied into a pool that then had four slides emptying into a lower pool.  Using gravity to assist the water flow saved on pump costs.
  • Some of the technology suggestions:
    • Curved corners make for better water flow than squared corners.  Less surface resistance.
    • They recommended use of the Evacuator – a branded system used to pull chloramines away from the pool surface.  Chloramines are the result of the chlorine in the pool reacting to people in the water (their sunscreen, their sweat, etc.) and forming an invisible cloud just above the surface of the water.  For outdoor pools, the breeze dissipates the cloud.  However for indoor pools, it has to be handled by the ventilation system, which proves to be expensive and not very effective.  The Evacuator system is installed as part of the gutter system and sucks the chloramines’ cloud away.  There are also retrofit systems that can be placed along the perimeter of the pool area.  The cost for such a system is estimated to be about 5% of the entire pool cost (partially offset at least by reduced operating costs of the regular ventilation system).
    • The discussion about the Evacuator also brought out the desirability of such features as Alexandria strives to meet environmental standards on City projects.  There is a great possibility that the removal of chloramines will more than likely be required in the future health codes and standards.  This would support the need for an ‘Evacuator’ type system.  Such a system also works in tandem with the UV system thus reducing the impact on the UV system as well as on the ‘filter’ system used.  This also supports the LEED requirements set forth by the city.
    • There is also a Regenerator system (also known by other names by other manufacturers – Neptune Defender, etc.) that filters the pool water better than the traditional sand filters.  It significantly reduces the number of times that you have to “backwash” (or clean out) as compared to the more traditional filters.  They estimated that a Regenerator will last 3 to 4 times as long as the older filter systems.
      • They also described several types of sand filters that could be used, but all are less efficient than the Regenerator.
    • The facility used a reel system to take up the lane dividers.  Much more efficient than having a staff member try to pull them out of the water and store them at the side of the pool.  One reel for each lane divider.  The reels have wheels and can be moved out of the way.

 

Mark and Tom ended the presentation by emphasizing that Paddock would be available well after the warranty period for consultation and assistance.  Mark’s firm is local (Tom is from the national office in South Carolina) which he feels is a great benefit to the customer in case any issues arise.

After the presentation, Jeremy took us on a tour of the facility.  There were three different pools along with two spas at the complex.  A 25-meter competition pool with several diving platforms; a warmer recreation pool with 8 swimming lanes and a spa; and a play pool with the overhead slide, four smaller slides, spray features, bucket dumps, a kiddie wading area, and another spa.

Jeremy explained that they did not put in a 50-meter pool because the County already had one at a nearby facility.

Overall, the Germantown Aquatic Center is a very impressive facility.  Of note was that the recreation pool and the play pool areas looked to be about the same size as the existing pool space at Chinquapin.  It shows that a lot can be done with innovative approaches in the design phase.

One draw back that we saw was that the whole pool area seemed to be darker than desired.  Some of that may be due to the overhead slide, but it didn’t look like they had a very effective lighting system.  Jeremy indicated that he would like to put in a new lighting system or at least newer style lights that may help the situation.

The meeting and trip were very productive and well worth the time spent.

October Update

Meeting Updates

While funding has already been approved for aquatics by the City Council last May, the City staff sought further direction from the City Council.  It was clear what was being done for Chinquapin – a $500,000 feasibility study is being started with the anticipation of spending up to $20 million ($17.5 million from the City; $2.5 million from private funding) to build two new pools there.  There was an additional amount of $ 5 million allocated to pools in 2018 and this is what City staff wanted to clarify.  How should it be divided among Old Town, Warwick, and a therapy pool?  Particular attention was needed on Warwick because it was scheduled to close this past season, but remained open due to the Council’s intervention.  What would happen next year to it?

The Council held a legislative session on September 24th where a proposed Aquatic Master Plan was presented by City staff.  In it, it was recommended that Warwick have a small outdoor pool similar to the one at Charles Houston.  It was also recommended that the therapy pool be part of the new pools at Chinquapin rather than a separate one at the Lee Center.  Old Town would receive two new pools and there should be future planning for a West End pool.

Prior to the session on the 24th, AAA submitted its own recommendations to City Council, which varied from the City’s:

  • The Plan should set out the twin goals of improving the aquatic experience for all Alexandrians and providing all residents with the opportunity to learn how to swim.
  • Endorse the continuation of the effort at Chinquapin.
  • Approve a feasibility study as to what should be done at Warwick given the ground conditions.
  • Endorse the principle that the $5 million in 2018 should be equitably allocated to the three remaining sites – Warwick, Old Town, and a therapy pool.
  • Seek commitments from private sector groups to show their interest in working on the aquatics project.

The Mayor elected to defer a decision on the Master Plan at this time to allow for more work to be done between the City and other parties.

As a follow up to that, there will be a Park and Recreation Commission meeting on October 24th to hear about the Master Plan from City staff and then a public hearing by the Commission on November 21st to seek citizen comments on the proposed Master Plan.

All AAA members are encouraged to attend the November 21st public hearing.

Tax-Exempt Status

AAA has submitted an application to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status as a 501 c 3 non-profit.  That application was submitted in July and usually takes 4 months for processing.  However with the Government shutdown, we don’t know when the approval will be received.  Once it is received, we will start our formal fund raising process.

Membership Growth

Thanks to excellent recruiting efforts by Carolyn and Jeanne, we added over 50 new members who signed up during the September swimming period at Old Town.

Swimming in September

At the conclusion of the traditional summer swimming season on Labor Day, the City offered additional swimming time by keeping the Old Town pool open through much of September.  From all reports, it was a great success.  There was good attendance and a lot of good swimming days.  And all of it was free!  A very nice gesture by the City to its swimming community.  AAA would love to see it again next year.