OTTUMWA — When kids talk about the last weeks of school, one subject that often comes up is The Beach Ottumwa. It'll be ready soon, said employees.
On Friday, the maintenance staff was installing the fountain heads that shoot water straight up at the beginning of the wave pool. A contractor had repainted the wave pool, and workers climbed under part of the pool to clean and maintain "the wave maker." They also painted the kiddy area after blasting off chipped paint from the bottom.
Though the popular wave pool was dry Friday, a staff member said they -'ll use a fire hose to fill it. That takes about seven hours. The park won't open for at least a week, but employees are still working quickly to get ready.
Asked about his employees at the water park, Gene Rathje, Ottumwa parks director, said, "These are people who care."
In fact, said city administrator Joe Helfinberger, officials ordered that the environment there be professionally tested for air quality.
"It tested safe," said Helfinberger.
But to assure that the indoor pool stays comfortable and safe for everyone, he said that the City Council agreed to approve capital improvement money.
Projects being paid for include a fan for improved ventilation and a UV (ultraviolet) system that will work in concert with the chlorine to kill germs in the pool. When a lot of kids are in the pool, water has to stay clean — or else the air won't stay clean. That new UV system will be installed this summer, Helfinberger said, but should not interrupt use of the facility. He said there is also an ongoing effort to design modifications to the HVAC, heating ventilation and air conditioning system. That's probably a project for next year, however.
"It’ll be really nice to have the UV and the HVAC, when that’s done," he said.
For this year, said the city administrator, one improvement came unexpectedly: high winds damaged the concession stand, and it had to be rebuilt.
Even with improvements, said Helfinberger, The Beach staff and city leaders have kept prices low.
"The passes are still at $5, and season passes are $75. Lowering the fee helped the bottom line," he said. "There were more people and more concession sales."
The park opens Memorial Day weekend and will be open noon to 8 p.m. every day, weather permitting.
"It has to be 70 degrees," Helfinberger said, "and obviously no lightning."
He said the party schedule is filling up already. Anyone interested in scheduling an event at The Beach can call 641-682-8208.
To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark