Completion date for Lincoln Park pool in Palmetto continues to slip and slide

The completion of a Palmetto pool that’s been in the works for years is being pushed back yet again.

The Board of County Commissioners met to consider the scope of the project Tuesday after terminating the design contract with a firm that brought back price estimates that had ballooned in cost. It was a necessary move, board members said, but it’ll cost them their completion date.

A pool at Lincoln Park has been expected for some time and up until January, it was expected to be completed by the end of 2019. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker told the commissioners that’s no longer possible. A more realistic date is March 2021.

“Hopefully a design would come back to the board before the end of the calendar year, and by the end of March next year, the firm would be in place,” he predicted. “It would then take one year to build the pool.”

But before a proposal goes out, Hunzeker explained that commissioners needed to be clear about exactly what they’re looking for in the pool. He provided board members with a complete set of amenities and features, including a competition pool with a learn-swim-area, a pool deck with shade structures and a minimum bathing load of 130 people.

Commissioners agreed with the entire list, opting to also incorporate a slide into their wish list.

With the addition of a pool, Commissioner Priscilla Whisenant Trace pointed out that increased parking would be another necessary addition at Lincoln Park, which already suffers from a small amount of spaces.

“What good is a pool if you can’t park to get to it?” Commissioner Vanessa Baugh asked.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant represented her commission at the board’s meeting and acknowledged that parking is an issue. She suggested that parking improvements move along at the same time as construction of the pool to mitigate parking interference.

Hunzeker, however, reminded commissioners that parking isn’t something the pool design firm they’re searching for would specialize in. Commissioner Reggie Bellamy recommended that the board reach out to the School Board of Manatee to see if sharing parking spaces at Lincoln Middle School for pool access is a possibility.

Bellamy also wanted to see multiple designs come back before the board to prevent commissioners from having to deal with finding another design firm again.

“We need three options to work on. The reason is that if it comes back and we don’t like it, then we have to wait another six months,” he said. “If we keep going back to the table and back to the table, the next thing you know, we’re in a circle.”

His fellow commissioners didn’t agree. The last contractor brought back three options, as well, but that didn’t stop the board from looking elsewhere.

Commissioner Betsy Benac argued that it’d be more effective to just tell the contractor exactly what they’re looking for in the pool with the list of features they discussed.

The board voted unanimously to pass the list of amenities, including a pool slide, in their search for a new design firm.

“Let’s get this done and get shovels in the ground,” said Commissioner Stephen Jonsson.

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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