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  • Writer's pictureJoe Capozzi

Lake Worth Beach commissioners splash swimming pool consultants over shallow design 'misstep'

THE CONSULTANTS WERE 20 minutes into a presentation of their latest designs for a $12 million public oceanfront swimming pool when Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Christopher McVoy asked a basic question.

How deep will the pool be?

“Right now, that pool’s only 4 feet deep,’’ Chris Zimmerman of CPZ Architects replied at the Dec. 6 City Commission meeting.

Some commissioners weren’t sure they’d heard him correctly.

“The pool you designed for us is 4 feet deep?’’ Mayor Betty Resch asked.

“Did you say 4 feet…for $12 million?” McVoy replied.

Zimmerman, whose Plantation-based firm has been paid $320,000 by the city for pool designs since 2018, tried to explain to commissioners that the idea of “a deep diving pool didn’t come up” in previous discussions his firm had with city officials.

He said his team would be happy to come back in early 2023 with designs for a deeper and larger pool, but warned construction costs would rise.

Of CPZ’s latest two renderings, commissioners on Dec. 6 endorsed a T-shape configuration over a curved design. They rejected any use of artificial turf around the pool, opting instead for natural and lush tropical vegetation.

But their main message was for the consultants was loud and clear: Design a deeper and bigger pool.

And although commissioners that night refrained from publicly expressing the depth of their disappointment in the consultant, they pulled no punches at a pre-agenda work session nine days later, held via Zoom.

Mayor Betty Resch

“I was horrified when that came up. It just really, I thought, demonstrated the fact that, What were they thinking? Did they really think (the city wanted) a 4-foot, all-across pool?’’ Resch said at the session.

“These folks are supposed to be experts,’’ the mayor said, “and I just thought that was such a misstep on their part.’’

McVoy and Commissioner Reinaldo Diaz said they were surprised not only that the depth was so shallow but that it was not mentioned anywhere in the latest designs submitted to the city. Those designs included detailed construction estimates.

Only when McVoy asked on Dec. 6 did commissioners learn the designs called for a shallow “hotel pool.’’

Chris McVoy

“We all heard the gasp in the room when they said 4 feet deep,’’ McVoy said Dec. 14.

McVoy said he’d asked for the pool's depth in advance of the Dec. 6 meeting.

“The answer that came back was, ‘Well, that wasn’t really in the scope (of the consultant’s task).’ Bull to that. If you're going to get people to do construction cost estimates, of course you know what that is and of course that should have been provided in advance,’’ McVoy said.

“I'm more than frustrated with the consultants,’’ he said. “I'm not convinced they took us seriously.’’

The city's public oceanfront pool has been closed since 2017 (Joe Capozzi)

Zimmerman did not respond to requests for comment.

His team designing the new Lake Worth Beach Casino pool includes aquatic designer Raymond J. Schindler of RJS Design Consultants, who also attended the Dec. 6 meeting.

Part of the problem may stem from the multiple requests the city has made to Zimmerman and his team, whether at city commission meetings, one-on-one meetings the consultants have held with individual commissioners and meetings they’ve held with city staff.

In general, city commissioners have said they want a multi-purpose pool with diverse uses. They've suggested a range of programs, from swimming lessons and water aerobics to an area of the pool safe for children and a section deep enough for scuba lessons and first-responder training.

“We need almost as much of a Swiss army knife, as many uses as possible,” Diaz said. “The only way to accomplish that is to have a lot of variation in depth.’’

But in none of those meetings and discussions, apparently, was the depth of the pool ever specified.

The existing pool, opened in 1971, is an Olympic-size pool with diving boards and a 12-foot diving well in the center and a depth of 3.6 feet at the ends. The city closed the pool in 2017 because of leaks, failing equipment and the high cost to repair it.

Based on the depths of the pool they are trying to replace, some commissioners assumed the consultants would automatically design the new pool with similar depths.

“When he said ‘four feet,’ I was like, ‘I’m done. This is crazy,’’’ Resch said. “He obviously doesn't understand. We want a pool. Not a wading pool.’’

The latest designs came from CPZ’s third task order with the city, this one costing $32,000.

“I really feel like they really sort of missed the point and every time we talk to them it's more money,’’ Resch said.

Since 2015, the city has spent $347,058 on pool consultants, said assistant city manager Juan Ruiz. That breaks down to $320,000 for CPZ Architects, $14,840 for Kimley Horn and $12,218 for aquatic consultant Bob McCallister.

Colorful mural (above) on east-facing wall of the public pool (below), closed since 2017 (Joe Capozzi)

City officials have about $6 million set aside for the construction: $5 million from the penny sales tax and $1 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The city might also consider a private-public partnership to build the pool.

“If we end up going the route, and I think it's probably likely, of a private-public partnership, we should get ourselves used to being strict on what parameters we are going to be setting,’’ Diaz said Dec. 14.

Commissioner Kim Stokes said the city commission and city staff share blame for the slow pace of the pool project, not just the consultants.

“The process has been flawed. I am not happy with the way this has been done. We have to have some serious conversations about how we are going to move this forward,’’ Stokes said at the Dec. 14 Zoom meeting.

“Everybody on this call committed during their campaigns to a public pool at the beach. We’ve all said we want to get that done and I don't feel like we are on track to get that done right now. We're going to have to have lots of conversations about how we redirect this course and make sure we are on an actual path… to, yes, we are going to make this happen and get it done.’’

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About the author

Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years writing for newspapers, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.


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