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City public works crews attacking problems at the Newport Pool

City public works crews are providing nearly all the labor in fixing the Newport Pool, which failed over a week ago when it accidentally emptied itself. There’s been speculation as to a cause, but nothing that has conclusively been proven. Basement pumps were flooded along with electrical panels. Luckily none of the drained water made it to the bottom of the hill behind the pool where a stream could have carried the water to Big Creek, a major waterway.

The electrical panels seem to have survived the ordeal, and the pumps as well. But the drain system itself that empties the pool is shot. Manganese choked pipes and overall corrosion from being underground for nearly a half-century destroyed the system. So crews are building a new one.

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City Public Works Director Tim Gross says the drain field replacement shouldn’t take long. Maybe a week or so. The thing that is extending the closure of the pool, says Parks and Recreation Department Director Jim Protiva, is letting the new concrete set and cure. Once that’s done, the pool will need a new paint job. And it will take time for that to set and cure as well. So…late March is Protiva’s best guess for when the pool can re-open.

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As for total cost for repairs, Gross says it won’t be nearly as bad as originally feared. Costs are being kept to a minimum thanks to the city’s ability to use its own public works crews; people who are being paid anyway. He said he’ll be adding up the costs for initial contract labor and materials associated with checking out pumps and electrical circuits, along with the cost of new PVC pipe and drain fixtures. He said those are not expensive items.

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As for whether these repairs will give the old pool a new lease on life neither Gross nor Protiva would make any bets on it. Protiva said there are problems with the pool’s side drains and the building itself – especially the roof and superstructure. “The facility is well past a normal lifespan. We’re still operating on borrowed time – even with the new drain system.” Which raises the specter of another possible bond measure showing up on a future ballot. The last one, a couple of years ago, failed by a narrow margin. And a group of citizens is still promoting the idea of a large, tourist-driven aquatic park at South Beach.

There is sure to be lots of debate among Newport’s citizenry about all this in the months ahead.

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