Dr. Susan Bardwell Aquatic Center SignPlymouth City Attorney Sean Surrisi spoke to the City Park Board Monday about the Bardwell Aquatic Center and its future.

The facility is privately owned by a subsidiary of the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation.  It is then leased to Marshall County Health and Wellness Inc. who subleases it to the City of Plymouth, Plymouth Community School Corporation and Ancilla College who pay lease amounts.  There is a sublease to the Dr. Susan Bardwell Aquatic Center LLC who is to be operating company for the facility.

Surrisi said the aquatic center was structured this way to take advantage of financing such as the Regional Cities Program that funded $2 million of the construction project.  They also took advantage of the New Market Tax Credits which brought in another million dollars for the pool construction.

Surrisi said the Bardwell Aquatic Center LLC who the sole member was Rick Miller had a 10 year contract to operate the pool.  He said they breached the contract before the onset of the project.

Marshall County Health and Wellness filed suit against Rick Miller in September.  While there were some settlement discussions but those stopped and last week the company filed a default judgment against Mr. Miller on Monday with the hearing set for February.

Since Bardwell Aquatic Center LLC backed out before the pool was operational the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation stepped up to oversee operations of the facility and did sp through March of this year.   Since then City Attorney Sean Surrisi and LeAnn Senter have been operating the pool and handling the day-to-day operations.

The pool has been operating using contingency funds from the construction to keep the lights on and the pool heated.

The City Attorney and Mayor Mark Senter have had discussions with City Councilman Robert Listenberger, Park Superintendent Mike Hite and Park Board members Dave Morrow and Laura Mann looking for a solution.

Surrisi said he and the mayor will be having discussions with the City Council to work on a solution that will have to come in the first quarter of 2021 before the aquatic center runs out of operating funds.  The mayor will be looking to prioritize from city funds for pool operating.

Surrisi said, “It’s a natural with the park department since it is a recreational facility.”  He also said it costs about $15,000 a month to keep the facility opened and operations.  This includes utilities, lifeguards and insurance.  Neither Surrisi nor Senter is being paid for the work at the pool. The NIPSCO bill runs about $10,000 a month.

As a way to save funds, Marshall County Health & Wellness is looking at the possibility of installing a solar array on the roof of the pool to assist with energy costs.  He also told the park board the lease payments from the city, school and college pay the bond payments of about $6 million for the next 10 years. The Plymouth Redevelopment Commission is paying $3.15 million from TIF funds over an 8 year term.  There is also a 25 year bond for $3.5 million for the construction project.

The contract will Rick Miller stated that the Susan Bardwell Aquatic Center LLC would pay the operational costs at the pool and be able to benefit from any profits.

The COVID pandemic has had a negative impact on attendance at the pool.  Surrisi said the school team and recreation team are using the pool and the college is building a swim program and  has a few students on a team now.

The city is going to be asked to dig deeper into their pockets and it’s hoped the school and college will also help keep the doors open.  The city steps up to put more money in for operations city residents may be able to use the pool for free.

Park board members may be asked to take over the day to day operations of the pool.

Dave Morrow said his concern is the location.  He said, “Our park pool is located in our main park and kids can ride their bicycles to get to it.  This facility is on the west side at the edge of town and not easily accessible, especially for younger children.”

While no action was taken by the Plymouth Park Board, City Councilman Robert Listenberger said the first step is to look at what it would look-like for the park department to staff the pool.  He said, “We need to put some numbers to it and see what it will take to budget it.  l feel we need to look at a couple scenarios before making a final decision.”

The city attorney projected he will run out of the contingency funds for operational costs by the end of March.

Listenberger said, “There’s no easy answer to this.  We’ve been talking about this for a long time.  There’s just no clear way to handle this, but it is going to be a problem for us.”