Troubled water: Swimmers up a creek after 'bubble' pool motor dies

Thursday, September 20, 2007
Senior Matt Holmes climbed out of the Capaha Park pool at the end of the Central swim team practice Wednesday. The team has been practicing at the pool at Capaha Park while their normal practice space, Central Municipal Pool, is out of service. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

A mechanical failure at Central Municipal Pool has three high school swim teams improvising practices. Some are practicing at Capaha Park's pool, some are using the pool at Saint Francis Medical Center's Fitness Plus or going as far as Perryville's municipal pool.

Some are running.

The motor and pump failure couldn't have come at a worse time for swimmers, who are in the middle of their season. And it happened on the same day the city council reviewed the most recent sales-tax proposal from the park board.

The debate within city government is being bantered between the city council and the park board. Among the hotly debated items is what to do about the city's swimming pools. About $4.5 million of a proposed $6 million Central Municipal Pool renovation project was among some of the latest cuts made after the city council asked the park board to trim back the overall tax proposal. The 10-year, half-cent sales-tax proposal would also fund storm-water abatement.

At Monday's city council meeting, resident Mark Coots said the motor breakdown is just one reason to support the proposed parks and recreation tax. He has attended every meeting on the tax for months and was just one of several who spoke to city council Monday.

Members of the Cape Central swim team swam laps in the Capaha Municipal Pool during practice Wednesday. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Coots told the council that his son, Central freshman swimmer Caleb Coots, turned to running while parents and coaches scrambled to find practice and meet alternatives.

By Wednesday, Mark Coots was driving his son and Central sophomore swimmer Sam Gramling to the pool at Saint Francis Medical Center's Fitness Plus, where each have memberships.

"It was just one of those things. It's not the city's fault," he said Wednesday afternoon in a cell phone conversation while watching the boys practice.

Other high school swimmers are working out at Capaha Park's pool or driving to Perryville's municipal pool. Capaha Park's pool closes to the public in September but remains open for swim teams while the removable roof is reinstalled over Central Municipal Pool.

Patrick Watson, Cape Girardeau's aquatics supervisor, said the breakdown was discovered Monday morning, after the early bird swim session, during routine checks.

He said he or a maintenance worker checks the pump every morning around 7 a.m., and it wasn't running.

"Further diagnostics showed it was typical wear and tear," he said. Watson said the motor and pump have been cycling the Olympic-size pool's 500,000 gallons of water continuously for 10 years. "It basically just broke down."

Dan Muser, Cape Girar­deau's Parks and Recreation director, said the motor was replaced 10 years ago, at cost of $8,000. He said workers discovered the pump that works with the motor has several cracks in it.

"It's not fixable from the standpoint of a part," he said. "They're not in a repairable condition."

He said repairs require finding and buying the right equipment and paying for installation, which will likely require reconfiguring some plumbing. He refused to guess at replacement costs without further information.

"It's not like putting a new water faucet in a sink," he said.

In the meantime, swimmers have the option of using Capaha Park pool, despite cooler water temperatures.

Central coach Dayna Powell says the breakdown happened at a horrible time. She said she generally "eases" swimmers into shape at the beginning of the year. At the end, she likes to rest them more.

But in the middle of the season, the idea is for swimmers to swim tired to build up endurance.

"State is about a month and a half away," said Central senior swimmer Peyton Waggener. "If we don't have a normal practice routine ..."

"It's going to mess us up," finished senior teammate Matt Holmes.

Waggener placed in the top 16 in the 100-meter breaststroke last year.

Doug Gannon, aquatics and recreation coordinator at Fitness Plus, said he was in the process of coordinating swim team schedules to provide practice time for Notre Dame, Jackson and Central teams.

"Notre Dame is already using our facility on a limited basis," he said. "The bottom line is if these swimmers don't have any place to go, it's really going to affect their seasons. We just want to be able to help any way we can."

Managing editor Bob Miller contributed to this report.

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