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No, the Crystal Lagoon project is not approved. The project is in its proposal stage awaiting the completion of a feasibility study, after which the study's findings will be presented to Town Council and the public.
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It is anticipated that the feasibility studies will be completed sometime in October. Both firms will present their findings and recommendations to the Town Council at either a Council work session or a special session.
The feasibility study is being completed in partnership by Swaback Partners and Hunden Partners/Applied Economics with support from Crystal Lagoons.
Crystal Lagoons is the company that is providing technical details related to costs for a proposed swimming lagoon in Fountain Park. There is no cost to the town for technical information obtained from the company that will be used in the feasibility study.
Swaback Partners will help to identify programming needs of a swimming lagoon. The firm will also evaluate Fountain Park and potential locations for a possible lagoon. This will provide basic information such as the cost to build the facilities to support the lagoon. The firm will also provide conceptual renderings. The firm will be paid $20,000 for completing its scope of services.
Hunden Partners/Applied Economics will analyze the capital costs associated with building the lagoon. The firms will also estimate the cost of operating and maintaining the lagoon and related facilities expenses such as staffing, utilities, water, lagoon treatment, insurance, etc. The firms will also identify the various revenues that would be required to recover the cost of operations and maintenance of the lagoon and facilities. Hunden Partners will receive $18,800 for its services.
The Swaback Partners firm previously was contracted by the town to assist in developing a downtown plan for Fountain Hills. The plan was adopted by the Town Council in 2009. Swaback spent numerous hours in public involvement in the community and as part of the downtown plan, recognized the significance of Fountain Park and the downtown. Since Swaback was very familiar with Fountain Park, it made sense to contract with Swaback. The firm’s understanding of our downtown and park also meant we could expect a lower cost and quicker turnaround on a feasibility study.
Initially, the town made contact with Applied Economics to assist with identifying the costs and other fiscal impacts of the project. Applied Economics has an excellent reputation in the Valley for assisting cities in analyzing economic impacts of proposed public policies. Applied Economics ended up becoming a subconsultant to Hunden Partners on the lagoon project due to the fact that Hunden had more expertise if there were follow up work on the lagoon analyses relating to tourism impacts.
Crystal Lagoons is providing information to the consulting firms so the firms can properly cost out the excavation costs, capital costs, and water treatment costs for the proposed lagoon project.
Under the town code and procurement code, the town has the ability to identify and direct select certain types of consultants to provide professional services to the town. In the case of the feasibility studies in question, I informally requested the firms to submit proposals for a proposed lagoon project. Since I didn’t want to move forward on contracting with these firms until I had Council consensus on the proposed project, the proposed feasibility studies were brought up for discussion at the Council work session on this subject.
As was mentioned previously, Crystal Lagoons is providing information to the consulting firms so the firms can properly cost out the excavation costs, capital costs, and water treatment costs for the proposed lagoon project. While the information from Crystal Lagoons will be very helpful in the analyses required for the feasibility studies, there are other cost factors that will be examined such as the capital and operating costs for the beach and facilities, water, utilities, staffing, insurance, and other maintenance costs.
Even if this project were to proceed, it is not necessarily a foregone conclusion that Crystal Lagoons will receive the contract. Due to the anticipated size, scope, and dollar amount for the proposed project, it is conceivable that the project will be competitively bid. The Town Council could also determine that bidding out the project may not be in the best interests of the town because there may not be other companies with the expertise or background in building and maintaining such man-made beach and swimming lagoon facilities.
If the findings from the studies indicate that the lagoon project is not financially feasible for the town to undertake, then the project will go away. If the studies indicate that the lagoon is financially feasible, then the Town Council will need to make a decision if it wants to proceed with the project. If the Council wants to proceed, then there will need to be open houses and public hearings as the State Parks Department has indicated that the town will need to demonstrate community support before proceeding. This is due to the fact that the town applied for and expended Arizona Heritage Fund grants and federal grants to make improvements to Fountain Park. It is also anticipated that voters will have a say at the ballot box if the Town Council were to refer the proposed lagoon project to voters as a possible project to be financed by bonds.
If the Lagoon is approved, our Fountain is expected to remain intact. A barrier between the lagoon and the base of the fountain is intended to keep separation between the lake water and the lagoon. This barrier should maintain a safe distance between the Fountain and the edge of the Lagoon.