TRAVERSE CITY — The city’s Clinch Park splash pad problems may spill over into the long-term goals to redesign the entire city-owned waterfront on West Bay.
Several city commissioners said Monday they want the splash pad issues resolved before moving onto the next phase of the bayfront redevelopment, a 500-foot-long fishing pier. Commissioner Jeanine Easterday asked commissioners to consider putting the entire three-year-old bayfront plan back before the public for review before proceeding any further.
“Without resolving this we may be going into the pier project with a significant amount of credibility concerns among the public,” Easterday said.
City Manager Jered Ottenwess provided a status report on the $2.9 million reconstruction of Clinch Park and its new splash pad to commissioners at their last meeting before today’s election. The report showed that contractors failed to obtain a host of required permits including an electrical permit for the entire park prior to its June 25 grand opening.
The water feature — opened without a state-required construction permit — rained sewage-tainted water on unsuspecting children June 30 due to a design flaw that connected the fresh water reservoir directly to the sewer.
The splash pad reopened Aug. 31 and during its short operation several more problems were discovered.
The splash pad rests at a low spot, so storm water from surrounding sidewalks, lawns, and flower beds runs into it and pools on the surface. Water overflows and ponds in one bed, and debris constantly clogs the filters, requiring them to be cleaned out every 30 minutes.
Ottenwess said the city estimates it will have to hire a full-time person just to operate the splash pad during the summer.
Fixing the problems could extend into next summer’s construction season, he said.
Ottenwess pointed blame at the firm that designed the park and the splash pad, Hamilton Anderson Architects. The company failed to obtain all necessary permits or required design reviews for the splash pad. The city has withheld the final payment of about $12,000 to the firm and will investigate other potential claims against it.
Ottenwess said he hoped the city and Hamilton Anderson could resolve the issues without the city having to file a lawsuit.
Ottenwess proposes to hire a firm that specializes in waterparks to audit the splash pad and hopefully come up with solutions to reduce the operating costs. He expects a cost proposal from the firm this week.
Mayor Michael Estes said Ottenwess and city staff have to resolve the splash pad issues before the city commission can approve any more projects on the bay front.
“The pier is a huge undertaking and probably a lot more complicated then Clinch Park,” Estes said. “We need to resolve this, but unfortunately the city manager doesn’t have a solution at this point.”