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Bids, budget threaten pool project

By: Cheri March, Colfax Record Correspondent
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Colfax City Council members rejected bids for the city’s swimming pool renovation on Wednesday after numbers came in significantly higher than expected. Even the lowest of four bids was 55 percent above the $500,000 budgeted by the council for construction of a new six-lane, 75-by-45-foot pool, based on an estimate by project architect Two Rivers Architects. “We simply don’t have the resources to do that so we’re going to have to reject these bids,” said City Manager Bruce Kranz. Complicating the matter is an ongoing lawsuit related to the wastewater treatment plant. Though Colfax has managed to cut $217,000, bringing its already-lean operating budget to just $1.1 million, court fees are putting a strain on city finances. The city has been fighting a request by the Edwards family that it pay $186,000 in legal fees in addition to potentially $2 million in penalties for alleged ongoing wastewater treatment violations. “We’ve spent over $470,000 out of the general fund in the last several months,” said City Treasurer Melba Delfino. “It seems almost impossible that we’d be spending that amount. With any projects that come up, it’s important that (council members) really evaluate and question and plan.” City Attorney Mick Cabral said the court is in the process of issuing another attorneys’ fee award, this one for between $250,000 and $400,000. When the council voted to demolish the city’s aging swimming pool in May, funding of a new pool was already lined up with a parks and recreation grant, community development block grant and Proposition 40. Now, in order to retain $220,000 in Prop 40 funds, the city must spend the money on a project that is completed before the March 31, 2011 deadline. Council members agreed to identify a phase of the pool project to complete by March – for instance, infrastructure surrounding the pool or possibly a children’s water park. “This is a rejection of the bids, not a rejection of the project,” clarified Colfax Mayor Josh Alpine. “The pool is still a priority. We are not abandoning it. We believe it’s an anchor to the community.” The council stood by the decision to dismantle the old pool before renovation work was scheduled. “We had to get it excavated in order to move forward (with the Proposition 40 funds),” Kranz said. Additionally, the old pool was sinking on one side – in less than a year, an offset increased from three to seven inches – and contained numerous code violations. Still, Alpine Meadows resident Jeannie Claxton worried about the ultimate fate of the municipal pool. “I am heartsick over seeing this,” Claxton said. “For so many years, this has been the one thing that everybody has been able to use. I take my grandchildren up there. The community fought hard to keep that pool open.” Along with the wastewater treatment plant lawsuit, garbage collection costs are impacting the city’s budget. Colfax is paying $93,000 from the general fund to subsidize its mandatory solid waste program since costs with the Tahoe Truckee Disposal contract exceed fees paid by residents and businesses. On Wednesday, the council approved a draft contract they could use to seek bids from other garbage collectors. Council members also discussed whether pickup should remain mandatory. “The problem is, the surrounding area around Colfax does not have mandatory garbage pickup,” Alpine said. “We’ve seen garbage building up in the city because there’s nothing to stop people from just throwing garbage into town.” Some costs can be reduced by cutting the blue bag program, which Alpine called antiquated. Since garbage companies in the region separate recyclables after pickup, there is no need to have a separate blue bag for recyclables, he said.