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As the Public Building Commission continues to study two proposals for an alternative cover for the Community Pool, a previous consultant says the current bubble could still work, for a fraction of the cost.
Lloyd Hamilton, who helped with the repair work done at the pool over the summer after mold and mildew overran the facility, said that, while the Town looks at multi-million dollar proposals, similar energy savings could be accomplished at the pool while still using the bubble. The PBC has been tasked with looking at two different proposals and analyzing data so the Town Council would have an apples-to-apples comparisons of the projects, before sending one out to referendum this summer. Hamilton, on the other hand, believes that alternatives should be looked at, including making the bubble work.
"Based on the success of the bubble integration this winter, I think the mandate should be re-evaluated to include the bubble as viable going forward," he said. "That does not mean the bubble is the best or right answer, just that it is one."
Hamilton stated that, because of the work performed last year, noise has been reduced inside the bubble, there are no longer mold problems, and the building is "more comfortable" for staff and users. According to Hamilton, "significant additional energy savings," as much as 30 percent, are possible with an expenditure of $60,000, which would repair and rework parts of the current system. For $2 million, which is about half of one of the proposal's costs, Hamilton said he could utilize geothermal and solar power to make the building a "net-zero energy facility."
Last week, Hamilton outlined some of that work, including replacing windows and boiler parts in the maintenance room to make the facility more energy efficient. He believes a lot of the work couldn't have been accomplished a decade ago, but new technologies, architects, and engineers should change the thinking of the Town.
Hamilton claims that “it is obvious” the permanent building and the bubble weren't meant to work together under the current design but, by spending some money, he believed it could be a viable solution.
"I think there are a lot of misunderstandings. It's not the bubble's fault. The building wasn't meant to work with the bubble," Hamilton explained. "Are there issues? Sure, but they can be handled."
Instead of pushing forward with a June referendum, Hamilton urged the Town to study the permanent building because, if that building is found to be faulty, it will cost millions more to replace. He also urged officials to continue to look at alternatives, including the bubble, and to "be cautious" as to not make the same mistake twice.
"This building can be fine tuned to withstand the bubble," Hamilton said. "I think people are ignoring those facts. I take personal pride (in my work) and helping solve this problem."
He said the two proposals being studied by the PBC don't fit the mold, and he believes costs could actually increase when dehumidification and energy are tabulated.
"The problem with both proposals is that the pool is being forced to comply with the needs of the building rather than the building being designed for the reality of the pool," he said. "Sure, you can take care of the issue with lots of dehumidification, air movement and fresh air exchange. but use significant energy to do so."
The PBC has not released any of its findings thus far, and plans to finish its report during the second week of April. Councilman James Sima, chairman of the Planning Committee who is working with the PBC, said he has not spoken with Hamilton since his presentation to the Council last year. He said the PBC is looking at the two proposals, and is not considering the continued use of the bubble. However, as part of their findings, Sima said the PBC was analyzing life cycle costs, and the bubble would be included in that particular aspect of the report. After the PBC issues its report, Sima said the Council will narrow the field down to one vendor, with an eye on a June referendum. A special referendum would be held in order to meet construction deadlines, therefore allowing only one winter of displacement, instead of two, if the referendum waits until November.
"There will be a yes or no question on the structure, and whatever comes out of that question is something we will have to discuss," Sima said. "We are trying to move on from the mini-disasters that happen every six months at the pool. There will be a new structure that won't have any major breakdowns."
And if the referendum, which could be as costly as $5 million, fails? Sima said the Council would cross that bridge, if it comes to it. For now, the Council will focus on the operating budget and, when adopted, the focus will turn back to the pool, he stated.