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Pool master plan sidetracked at parks board

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 by Austin Monitor

If Tuesday’s Parks and Recreation Board meeting was any indication, the proposed Barton Spring Pool Master Plan is in for a bumpy ride on its way to the City Council sometime this summer.  The plan, up for preliminary consideration, drew fire from scientists, environmentalists, and even a faction of the Parks Board who want to change the name of the plan.


Consultants Laurie Limbacher and Al Godfrey of Limbacher & Godfrey Architects were caught in the crossfire. The City Council authorized the study in October 2006, and Limbacher & Godfrey have been working on the plan since February 2007.


The consultants seemed genuinely taken aback by the attacks on the plan by the city’s Science Advisory Committee, the Save Our Springs Alliance, and others.


Godfrey presented the board with the “15-minute version” of the plan, which is more than 175 pages. He outlined plans to improve the bathhouse area to make men’s and women’s facilities equal, a plan to connect Eliza Springs to the main pool, build a small bathhouse at the south entrance off Robert E. Lee Road and improve the south parking lot, improvements to the Zilker Sunken Gardens and other general improvements to the facility.


Upon completion, Godfrey was hit with several questions from a letter the Science Advisory Committee to the project had released on Tuesday. The questions generally involved why the plan focused more on infrastructure than the hydrology and ecology of the springs. Both Godfrey and Limbacher said they had put the plan together based on their charge from the City Council, and input from city staff and stakeholders.


Board Chair Linda Guerrero said she thought the board, or a subcommittee, should meet with members of the Science Advisory Committee to discuss their concerns about their letter. Laura Drees with the city’s Watershed Protection and Development Review Department said that no members of committee were able to attend last night’s meeting, but they would be available for future meetings.


Next, Bill Bunch, director of the SOS Alliance, came forward to claim that Godfrey & Limbacher were chosen for the job only because they were next on the city’s rotation list for “minor architectural project.” He said for such a project, the city should have contacted the University of Texas Architectural School and had graduate students develop competing plans for the project.


Following that exchange, Board Member Jeff Francell move to have the board approve a resolution to change the name of the project to Barton Springs Pool Improvement Plan, based on input from what he said was several stakeholders, and send it on the Council.


Board Member Marilyn Bostick asked Limbacher how much it would cost to affect such a change on the plan. Limbacher answered that she could not calculate that in her head, but said that it would take a significant amount of work to accomplish. Board Member Danette Chimenti asked why it would not be a simple use of a search and change key on a computer program. Limbacher protested that it would take much more than that.


At that point, Guerrero intervened, and suggested that the board’s Facilities Subcommittee needed to study all the issues that had been brought up at the meeting.

“The long term for all this (the Master Plan) is not funded. We have money for most of the short-term parts of the plan. But this will not all get done at one time if it’s approved. And because of many financial constraints, it will be some time before all of the Plan is completed,” said Guerrero.

Francell rescinded his motion and the matter will go before the subcommittee in two weeks.

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