After hearing complaints from swimmers, the Elgin City Council approved spending more than half a million dollars for a new ventilation unit for the pool at The Centre.
That was among several big ticket expenses approved Wednesday night, including about $420,000 in new flooring for city facilities and about $865,000 in renovations at the Wing Park Family Aquatic Center.
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Rebecca Jensen and Ed Marsh, both members of the Elgin Blue Wave swim masters team, told the city council that the air quality at The Centre pool is bad.
Some team members have left because of that, Jensen said.
The poor air quality -- basically people breathing too much chlorine -- is a result of poor water quality, Jensen said. She said she had the water tested at an independent facility a couple of weeks ago for chlorine and chloramine.
"The test results were outside of some of the ideal guidelines," she said.
Parks and Recreation Director Randy Reopelle said the pool's water was tested Jan. 23 by a local pool inspector, and the next day by a state inspector, Reopelle said.
"They gave us a clean bill of health," he said.
Marsh echoed Jensen's concerns.
"A lot of swimmers are questioning a lot of the air quality and a lot of the quality issues at the pool," he said.
Shortly after, council members approved buying the new $573,000 ventilation unit without discussion. The unit will likely be installed in late May when there is a break in programming, Reopelle said.
Reopelle said he knew last summer the ventilation wasn't working properly -- based on the strong smell of chlorine and customers' complaints -- but didn't have money to replace it. The expense was budgeted for this year.
There are no health department standards for air quality in pools, he said. The problems affected people with asthma, colds and the like, he added.
"The average person still could come in and swim, staff still could work," he said.
The council approved renovating the Wing Park pool with sandblasting and painting, a new lift for people with disabilities, a new pool heater and more.
It's unclear if the pool will open this summer. Mayor David Kaptain said he was skeptical the work would be done on time.
Council members decided City Manager Sean Stegall will be in charge of deciding that based on the work's progress in early spring, before pool staff has to be hired for the summer.
The council also approved, without discussion, installing new epoxy flooring at the Hemmens Cultural Center, the garage area of the city's fire stations, and the fleet area of the public works facility.