BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners will consider hiring a water-park development firm to review concerns with Clinch Park's new splash pad.
City staffers recommend the commission hire Wisconsin-based Water Technology Inc., at an initial cost of $7,350 to review the water feature's compliance with industry standards and health department regulations. Commissioners will review the proposal when they meet today at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.
"We definitely need to have an audit of that to figure out if there are design flaws and what are they," said city Commissioner Barbara Budros. "We don't have the answers to that stuff and we need it so we can proceed and figure out what went wrong."
The water feature opened without required permits and within days rained sewage-tainted water on unsuspecting children. Hamilton Anderson Architects, the design firm city officials hired for the $2.9 million park reconstruction, connected the splash pad's water reservoir directly to the city sewer line and failed to obtain permit review before the park opened.
The sewage backup turned out to be just one of numerous problems outlined by city staff after the park reopened. The splash pad rests at a low spot and collects storm water from the surrounding areas.
Splash pad filters become debris-clogged and require city employees to climb down into a confined space every 30 minutes to clean filters. City administrators predict they will have to hire one full-time person in the summer to keep the water feature running.
The splash pad's flowing river component doesn't work as designed; concrete around splash pad spray nozzles already is cracking, and city officials expressed concern about children climbing on the rain arches.
"Are we worried about nothing, or do we have some concerns that need to be addressed?" said Tim Lodge, city engineer. "If we can yield some operational savings in the long run (the audit) is going to pay for itself."
The city already has begun an informal dispute resolution process with Hamilton Anderson Architects to determine who will pay for any park fixes, including flooding of the tunnel under Grandview Parkway during heavy rainstorms. The dispute process is time-consuming, so the city will work on it and the audit concurrently, said Jered Ottenwess, city manager.
Water Technology Inc. can begin work immediately, but won't be able to complete the review until after the snow melts, Ottenwess said.
Water Technology Inc. focuses on design, planning, and engineering of specialty pools and water parks and has a client base that includes Great Wolf Lodge and SeaWorld. The company also was listed as the water feature consultant for a competing design proposal for the Clinch Park renovation that lost out to Hamilton Anderson Architects.
"They have experience, and we've had some pretty good rapport with their people," Lodge said. "We're excited about getting them in here to take a look at what we have."