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Manatee officials vote to send proposed Lincoln Park Pool back to the drawing board

Plans for the Lincoln Park pool are dead in the water after county officials voted to terminate the contract agreement with the construction company.

In a letter to Jon F. Swift Construction, procurement official Theresa Webb said Manatee County “has determined it to be in its best interest to terminate this agreement for convenience and without cause.” The letter served as a seven-day notice to the Sarasota-based design firm.

On Tuesday, commissioners voted to approve the termination of the agreement that lasted just over six months. Jon F. Swift will be compensated for the work that has already been confirmed, Webb said.

County commissioners and city of Palmetto commissioners alike expressed their disappointment with the swelling cost of the pool at Lincoln Park during a joint meeting in January. Three separate designs were proposed, but officials said they were too expensive and lacked features they were expecting.

The designs ranged from $3 million for a pool that didn’t include basic amenities such as parking, furniture and site lighting to $7 million for a top-of-the-line facility. Officials signaled that their preferred option would be the $5 million design that would feature a competitive pool, a learning pool and a support building.

Lincoln Pool 5m.JPG
Palmetto and Manatee commissioner signaled their interest in a $5 million option that sat between cheaper and more expensive designs for the pool at Lincoln Park at a joint meeting in January. County commissioners voted to terminate the contract with the design-build firm Tuesday. Manatee County Property Management

Emmalee Legler, director of marketing and operations for Jon F. Swift, said “there are no hard feelings” but that the company believed it was properly following guidance from both boards. In July, board members approved an agreement to pay them $289,000 for construction services and design.

“We were provided information it has changed, as happens with every project as you go through the design phase,” Legler said. “That’s a natural part of the design-build process.”

“It’s just unfortunate because it’s a great intergovernmental project, so it’s going to be a great project once it’s off the ground and we would have loved to be a part of that,” she added.

Officials say their next design request will be crystal clear. Commissioner Reggie Bellamy said the next step is to figure out exactly what county and city commissioners want to see included in the design. They should also consider the impact the pool may have on future Lincoln Park improvements, he said.

“We need to be thinking about the end before we start,” said Bellamy.

Other board members agreed that a firm idea needs to be included in any proposal going forward. Without that plan, “we’ll be in trouble,” said Commissioner Betsy Benac.

Commission Vanessa Baugh noted that she wasn’t sure if the board was ready to start looking for a new construction firm just yet.

“I’m concerned about a request for proposal for quotes going out because we haven’t discussed what we want,” Baugh said.

There is conflict between commissioners and residents over what the purpose of the pool should be. Residents have expressed a desire to have the best pool possible, since there currently isn’t a public pool north of the Manatee River, but some officials have argued that the main purpose of the pool was to provide a safe place to learn how to swim.

The Palmetto City Commission hadn’t had a chance to discuss the Lincoln Pool yet, but Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said Tuesday that she supported the termination of the contract.

“We were in total consensus across the board,” she said. “It needed to happen and I’m glad they did it.”

According to County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, commissioners were provided with a document detailing the features the county wants to see in the pool design. He asked commissioners to review the wish list, which included a learn-to-swim pool, a competition pool and a minimum bathing load of 130 people, and suggest additions during the board’s next meeting on Feb. 26.

Ryan Callihan is the Bradenton Herald’s County Reporter, covering local government and politics. On the weekends, he also covers breaking news. Ryan is a graduate of USF St. Petersburg.
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