August 2, 2007 in Voices

Rust plagues city pools

By The Spokesman-Review
City of Spokane photo

Rust inside the boiler at A.M. Cannon Pool shows the age of the city’s pools. This was repaired this year, but more work will be needed before the 2008 swimming season. City of Spokane
(Full-size photo)

What’s next?

City officials plan to ask voters this fall to spend $78.4 million on pools and other park improvements. An additional $4 million has been held in reserve for Albi Stadium improvements. Here is a rundown on the $82.4 million proposal:

•$22.5 million to replace or rehabilitate five existing pools.

•$26.7 million for an indoor pool somewhere in the city.

•$4.3 million to build a new outdoor pool near Joe Albi Stadium.

•$3.5 million for 10 spray areas to replace the wading pools.

•$11 million for park improvements at Albi.

•$3 million for youth baseball fields.

•$11.4 million for a Riverfront Park promenade.

Problems with rust at the city’s aging outdoor swimming pools could be solved under a $78.4 million bond issue expected to appear on the ballot this November.

Park maintenance workers have been repairing holes in the heating systems at Cannon Pool on the North Side and Liberty Pool in east Spokane this year, and managed to get the pools working – for this season.

On Monday, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a ballot measure that not only would rehabilitate and replace existing pools, but also would build an indoor swimming facility, make improvements at Joe Albi Stadium, build baseball fields and dress up Riverfront Park. It would cost property owners an estimated $100 a year on a $200,000 home.

The bond amount is more than five times the $15 million in park improvements approved by voters in 1999, the last time the Parks Department asked for additional tax money.

Existing boilers that heat pool water are so old that at least one of them needs to be replaced, said Tony Madunich, park operations manager. Swimming pools in Spokane are heated to 80 degrees to ensure the comfort of swimmers.

Workers welded a metal patch to the outer housing of the Cannon Pool boiler this spring and also rebuilt the heat exchanger to get that pool open.

The repairs appear to have succeeded, Madunich said.

According to Nancy Goodspeed, park spokeswoman, the metal shell holding hot flue gases was rusted through.

In addition, the escaping gases created inefficient and uneven heating of the water tubes, resulting in hot spots that vaporized some of the water, triggering heavy vibrations.

At Liberty Pool, water tubes in the boiler are so badly rusted that the city may be left with no other choice than to buy a new boiler for next season.

Trouble at that pool started five years ago, Goodspeed said in a news release.

“We’re sitting here scratching our heads trying to get things Band-Aided,” Madunich said.

The problems come as the city’s five outdoor pools continue to age. Boilers have been replaced over the years but now are 20 to 22 years old, Madunich said. Three of the city pools last saw major work in 1959 and 1960; two others were upgraded in the early 1980s.

Each time workers tried to repair water tubes in the Liberty Pool boiler, the heat from the welding caused more splits in the pipes. Madunich said it was as if the workers were “chasing cracks” until they finally got the problem under control.

Repair was difficult because there wasn’t enough solid metal to hold welds, he said.

He said he would prefer not to buy a new boiler for the Liberty Pool if the city is on the verge of a major investment in its pools. Refitting the pool with a new boiler could force the city to use less efficient, older technology, he said.

In addition to the work at Cannon and Liberty pools, workers also replaced the heat exchanger at Comstock Pool this year.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email