Pool bubble bid over budget

Swimming after summer’s over in Peachtree City will at least be a good bit more expensive than originally planned.

The only bid received by the city to manufacture and install a new “bubble” at the Kedron pools went $96,000 over budget, with a cost of $346,000, Leisure Services Director Randy Gaddo told the City Council Thursday night.

That, however, might not be the end of the project’s budgetary woes. The contractor, Arizon, wants to conduct a thorough testing of the concrete footing used to hold the bubble in place. If for some reason the footing is inadequate the cost to fix it could be “very expensive,” Gaddo said.

“We want to know before we approve the financing, because that can have a big impact on the final cost,” Gaddo said.

Council approved $6,000 to conduct the testing instead of approving the full bid to purchase the bubble, which also includes the air return system that keeps the bubble inflated.

The existing bubble is the original model, and it has been stretched out to last 15 years, even though it was only warranted for seven.

The new bubble comes with a 15-year guarantee, and city officials are hopeful they can also push the new one past its projected lifespan.

Financing the purchase over 10 years will cost about $45,000 a year, assuming the price doesn’t go up further, said City Finance Director Paul Salvatore.

The test results on the footing should be back in time for the May 19 council meeting, Gaddo said.

Mayor Don Haddix said he was against funding the purchase given the state of the economy, including the fact that the city’s tax digest will again shrink for the coming budget year. He also cited the upcoming local option sales tax negotiations with Fayette County and other municipal officials in the county as another potential hit on the city’s revenue.

“We can’t keep spending more and more and more,” Haddix said. “Someday we’ve got to turn around and say we’re going to spend less.”

Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch noted that with $60,000 in revenue so far this fiscal year at the Kedron pools, the cost of financing the bubble would be covered.

“It basically is going to hold its own,” Fleisch said.

Councilman Doug Sturbaum asked if there was any way to reduce the cost of the bubble. Gaddo replied that doing so would cut corners quality-wise that the city doesn’t want to cut.

Haddix said he wanted to wait on the purchase one more year so he could use the item as leverage in the LOST negotiations since so many out of county residents use the facility.

“The structure only operates part of the year for less than 5 percent of the people of Peachtree City,” Haddix said. “... And that’s a big chunk of money to spend when I don’t see how we’re going to pay for it.”

As to why the city only got one bid for the bubble out of 10 companies sent the request for proposal packages, there was speculation that once the companies saw how challenging the job was, they backed out.

Only two companies attended both mandatory pre-bid meetings with the city, officials said.

Salvatore said there are only three or four companies in the world that can do the work required by the city. Arizon actually has its corporate offices located inside a bubble, officials said.

The vote to approve the $6,000 testing contract was unanimous, but Haddix reiterated at the vote that he would not vote later in favor of the bubble purchase.