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Council approves $1,146,828 for construction of Pinney Pool

By Helen Tomlin News Review Staff Writer–
The cost and completion date of the upcoming construction of Pinney Pool dominated the dialog in last week’s City Council meeting.  It ended with a split vote.

Public Works Director Travis Reed presented a “smorgasbord” of four upcoming professional service agreements for approval.  All were with Willdan Engineering, a consulting firm offering aid for plans, specifications, construction management, and bidding for both documents and assistance services.

Travis Reed  /  Laura Austin Photo

Reed’s request for the council to approve an estimated $1,146,828 to oversee this 18-month pool project generated the most discussion.  To justify it, Reed explained that Willdan has done several pool projects, and their selected inspector “has done three aquatic centers in the last five years – some twice as large as ours.”  He believes this use of Measure P funds will benefit the Ridgecrest citizens because this particular inspector is certified in “just about every inspection we’ll need, including welding, shotcrete, high-strength steel, rebar, and concrete.”  He said, “This will save us money from hiring a third-party firm for these inspections.”

Reed said the pool will be completed 18 months after it goes out to bid in mid-April. He said these kinds of projects “can fall apart and cause holds,” so the proposed amount of money “needs to be set aside for these services.”  He requested it be added to the Measure P apportionments.

Mayor Eric Bruen had no objection to the cost but didn’t like the 18-month timeline. “I’ve been operating around a 12-month build.”  He said they’ve been trying to get the pool open by Summer ’25.  “Now it doesn’t look like that will happen.”

Bruen said, “I’m not trying to be a sourpuss, but we’ve literally been on the gas pedal since the day after Measure P passed.”  Now, the community is going to have to understand the council is “having an honest conversation about what can be accomplished vs. pie-in-the-sky.”

City Manager Ron Strand said, “So far, we haven’t missed a milestone,” and his consultant recently told him, “We’re on track.”  He said, “I have to take him at his word until I can no longer [do that].” Strand said the goal is to break ground this summer and they’ll try to have it open by the summer of ’25.

But Reed is prepared for it to go longer.  “I’m trying to cross my t’s and dot my i’s, so we’ll all be on board early before we get those plans.”  He said he has built pools before, “but never one of this magnitude – the number of pumps and chlorination and other stuff – so I want somebody who knows the downfalls to make sure we have these plans as good as we can.” He said doing this saves hundreds of thousands of dollars “on the back end on change-order costs.”  Reed’s bottom line, however, was that the pool would not open until September 25, but “that’s still summer for us.”

But, even if it’s September, “the pool may be open, but there will still be sight work and things going on after it’s complete.”  Reed chose the 18-month completion date so he doesn’t come back to the council in 12 months to say, “I have more work that still needs to be done, and I need more appropriations.”

Solomon Rafaratnam /
Laura Austin Photo

Councilman Solomon Rajaratnam objected to the cost.  “We never told the public we were going to spend $1.1 million on construction management, so we need to justify that.”

Reed explained the cost “was not just pulled out of thin air.”  He said firms are chosen based on their qualifications, and the fee is not determined until the firm is chosen.  He said, “Then you negotiate the fee based on your preliminary estimate with them.”  He assured Rajaratnam this price is well within acceptable industry standards.

Strand said, “I think we’ve made it clear we’ll spend several million dollars on the pool. This is just part of the process.”

Rajaratnam said, “We went to them for Measure P and we never told them about this.”  He wanted to do more shopping around.

But Strand had reservations about this.  He said, “I don’t think we’re going to find anybody who will do this at a Pik ‘N Save price.”  He explained that part of the problem is finding firms that will leave metro areas to work in remote areas like Ridgecrest. “We have a relationship with Willdan.”  This firm is incentivized to work in Ridgecrest because the City gives them other work.  “Most firms won’t look at us because there’s so much building going on throughout the state and country.”  Strand said by doing this, “we risk delaying the project.”

After this discussion, four council members voted for it, while Rajaratnam voted no.

Reed’s other three project resolutions were unanimously approved.  The first was the Bowman Channel Hydraulic Study.  Reed said the City’s goal is to create a capital improvement plan to complete the channel “where we can stop at strategic points so we don’t create downstream flooding issues that might cause damage to residents and private property.”  This project has been budgeted and will not exceed $105,566.

The second approved project was to pave eight streets.  He said all the construction and surveying would be done in-house.  The cost is $348,792, and he asked for extra appropriations from Measure V funds.

The last approved project was for design services to extend Mahan.  He wanted to “prepare both phases like they did with Ward.”  The part of Mahan to be extended is from Bowman to Springer and the cost is $125,240 from Measure V funds.

Three upcoming events were announced. A Community Yard Sale is planned at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 6.  A Movie Night and Easter Egg Hunt will be at Freedom Park from 5-6:30 pm on Friday, April 19.  The Farmer’s Market will re-open on Balsam Street on Wednesday evenings from 5-8 pm, beginning May 1.