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Firm could help navigate aquatic center operations

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Jim Burress, director of Parks and Recreation, sits next to Elizabeth Gilbert, director of administrative services, as she presents the results of a request for proposal regarding the aquatic center. City Councilor Angela Moore listens to Gilbert’s presentation at the general services committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The City of Roswell General Services Committee on Wednesday recommended awarding a request for proposal related to operation of the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center.

United Pools of Atlanta, Georgia was the firm recommended to assist with operation of the aquatic side of the center. The item was presented by Elizabeth Gilbert, director of administrative services, Wednesday afternoon in the mayor’s conference room at City Hall. Gilbert said the city received four responses to a request for proposals (RFP) since February, one of which was disqualified.

With the committee’s recommendation to the full city council, Gilbert said Roswell is closer to entering into negotiations between City Manager Joe Neeb and the management firm to assist with the aquatic portion of the center. Gilbert reiterated that the RFP required a full service partner, and training option — all of which can be negotiated by Neeb.

“I just want to impress upon people that just because we have this firm doesn’t mean we have to do it any certain way,” Gilbert said. “It can look any number of ways, so just because we say ‘Yes, we award it’ doesn’t mean it’s going to be this way. We want to hire local people. That’s our intent. We just need a little bit of assistance to make sure it’s successful.”

Gilbert said the city intends for the recreation and aquatic center to be open daily with varied hours on the weekends. Gilbert shared that the Roswell Adult & Recreation Center has 3,000 visitors a month, which is around 40,000 per year, and the splash pad had 1,200 visitors in its second season.

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Many steps have to occur before the new center opens in early 2019. Gilbert discussed the steps and emphasized hiring 10 full-time and 25 part-time lifeguards. Gilbert said hiring lifeguards has been difficult for the city in the past. Gilbert also said the city wants to avoid closing the aquatic side if there is a lack of lifeguards, which are legally required. Gilbert said United Pools has expressed a local hiring initiative with a back-up plan if the local hiring is ineffective.

Councilor Jacob Roebuck said that for an extra $1,000,000 in hiring United Pools, the aquatic center would be receiving safety and training, which he called a desperately needed “win for the city.” Project Manager Kevin Dillion agreed and said the city would be protecting the $20,000,000 investment in the recreation and aquatic center.

“In my opinion, we should go forward with this,” Jim Burress, Director of Parks and recreation, said. “I would suggest you do the full deal — both for liability and risk all the way across. You’re going to take care of the kids and you are also going to take care of the city’s liability. Obviously, you are going to have myself and some people from engineering as oversight. Regardless of who is doing this, we are in the building. You are going to have supervision from them constantly.”

Burress said he agreed with hiring within Roswell and said the city can be involved in the firm’s hiring later. Councilor Angela Moore said she agreed with Burress to keep money in Roswell, and that she agreed with Gilbert on this being a new venture for the city. Moore said she saw the benefit of the firm and could see the firm being temporary while the city learns. Councilor Sanchez said he also agreed with local hiring and added the firm would bring experience to help the city learn how to operate the aquatic center.

Gilbert said that she and Burress have their attention on other city projects and she wants someone to have undivided attention on the aquatic center, and that the city can provide the resources the center needs.

“The whole purpose for us is to be able to maintain that and not let it get to how we have allowed some other things to get,” Councilor Sanchez said. “We need to keep it up. We need to follow through and stay on top of that — so we can get the most out of the aquatic center.”

On this item, Councilor Moore made the motion and Councilor Roebuck seconded — the motion passed 3-0 to recommend to full council. Councilor Juan Oropesa had to leave prior to the discussion but voted on earlier items, such as the new Pecos Trails Transit route and cost recovery guidelines for recreation programming. Both those items were approved unanimously.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.