TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners approved spending $7,350 to audit the design and function of the splash pad at Clinch Park with the understanding it’s likely just the first check they’ll write for the troubled fixture.
City staff has identified numerous concerns with the $360,000 water feature, part of the $2.9 million park makeover overseen by Hamilton Anderson Architects. One of the chief concerns for city commissioners is the cost to staff the splash pad with a full-time person to keep it running.
“Some of our citizens seem to think the best way to do this is remove it completely — something I don’t agree with,” said Commissioner Ross Richardson. “But to have a staff member standing by to make sure it runs ... is extravagant at the least.”
The water feature opened without required permits in June and within days spewed sewage-tainted water on unsuspecting children because its water reservoir connected directly to a city sewer line that backed up.
Other concerns identified by city staff include the collection of storm water from the surrounding areas because the splash pad sits in a low spot. City employees have to climb down into a confined space every 30 minutes to clean the water feature’s debris-clogged filters, and city staff have identified a list of other concerns.
The city has withheld its final payment to Hamilton Anderson and notified it formally last week it will enter into the dispute resolution process called for in its contract, said City Manager Jered Ottenwess.
The consulting firm recommended by staff and chosen by commissioners, Wisconsin-based Water Technology Inc., will provide a report that the city can use in the dispute resolution process with Hamilton Anderson. But the water-park experts won’t go so far as to provide an opinion on who is responsible or assign a cause to any design issues they discover, Ottenwess explained to city commissioners.
Determining cause and responsibility will be done by city staff using the Water Technology report, assuming the report identifies claims to be made against Hamilton Anderson, Ottenwess said.
The main purpose of the audit is to supply guidance to staff about the best way to resolve the problems, Ottenwess said.
Mayor Michael Estes warned commissioners this is unlikely to be the final bill that comes before the commission related to the splash pad. Costs to design, engineer, and construct fixes for the problems will generate additional bills.
“I don’t think any of us are happy about it,” Estes said.
“Who ends up paying for it is another matter,” Estes added after the meeting. “My goal is that none of it comes out of the general fund.”
Water Technology Inc. will be paid from the small amount of money left over from the park project.