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Bathrooms for city pools sited wrongly

The number of stalls meets state code, but the design puts them 20 feet farther from the pools than allowed.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
Published May 19, 2006


NEW PORT RICHEY - The city's new $14.2-million recreation complex will have plenty of bathrooms, but they won't be close enough to the pools to meet state codes.

The state Department of Health requires a certain number of stalls within 200 feet of public swimming pools. New Port Richey's plans had more than enough: 12 women's stalls, eight men's stalls and three family bathrooms, but they will be 220 feet from the pools.

The architect, Harper Aiken Partners, was confident the city would get a break on the extra 20 feet, parks and recreation director Bob Consalvo said. But the Health Department last week denied the request for a variance.

That means the city will have to build another bathroom facility by the pools, this one with four women's stalls and two men's stalls. Early estimates put the cost between $100,000 and $200,000, City Manager Scott Miller said.

"I think it's ridiculous," Mayor Dan Tipton said. "You hire an architect to build the building; they ought to know what the rules and regulations are."

The architect at Harper Aiken was not available for comment Thursday, but project manager Richard Hermann said the bathrooms were designed farther away for a reason.

The main bathroom facility will be next to the gymnasium and the meeting rooms, in an employee-supervised area, Hermann said.

"People can make sure there's no trouble and no nonsense going on," he said.

A smaller bathroom was designed closer to the pool, with one stall for men and one for women. The architect kept that facility small to discourage people from congregating there, Hermann said.

But that made it too small to provide the necessary number of stalls within 200 feet, a frustrating technicality to Hermann.

"If you're going to go to the bathroom, walk another 20 feet. What's the big deal?" Hermann said. "At least I know my kids are safe."

Construction is under way on the new recreation center and aquatic complex, which will include a double-court gymnasium, an exercise room and separate pools for swimming laps, diving and playing in the water. If everything goes according to plan, the new complex on Van Buren Street will open next April. The cost has been a sore point with the City Council, which originally budgeted $6-million for the project. Cost estimates rose to $9-million last fall, then shot up to $14.2-million earlier this year.

Hermann said the builder is looking for ways to save money: omitting skylights, using less expensive finishes, scrapping an unnecessary stone base beneath the pools. He said the project's contingency fund would pay for adding the extra bathrooms by the pool.

But some council members say the architect should pay for it.

"When you pay a firm a half-million dollars to put something like this together, you expect a degree of satisfaction and professionalism," Deputy Mayor Matthew McCaffery said. "You expect when you go with someone that's a professional and an expert in the field that they would know these kinds of things."

Bridget Hall Grumet covers New Port Richey. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bgrumet@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 19, 2006, 03:00:21]


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