City considers future of pool and armory

Discussions on New Prague’s 2014 budget has brought up talks about two other items for the city, the New Prague Area Swimming Pool and the former armory building.

The New Prague City Council has been looking at the future of the pool at 401 Lexington Ave. S, which is about 30 years old and is starting to need repairs. The estimated cost for refurbishing the pool is $300,000, while building a new pool is estimated between $1-2 million.

In discussing the building of a new pool, the council has considered moving it north to 301 Lexington Ave. S. That property currently houses the former armory.

During a recent workshop, City Planning Director Ken Ondich explained that in 1957 the city entered into a 99-year lease with the federal government for the property. The Army Reserve moved out in the 1980s, and the city, which still owns the proprety, tried to end the lease in the 1980s and ‘90s. In 1996 the property was conveyed to the city for public park and recreational use.

Since then the building has been leased to the New Prague Area School District and recently to Hymnus, the New Prague based choir.

Ondich noted the building is not in great shape, although it is up to the city to upkeep and maintain it. In 2007, the city had to install a new roof. During an inspection this summer, Ondich found white mold in a room near the utility room. "Our hands are tied a bit," said Ondich.

If the building wasn’t there a swimming pool and parking lot could fit on the property.

"I think the land is really valuable whether we have a pool on it or not," said council member Shawn Ryan.

Other options the council has considered for the pool is a water park or whether to build an indoor pool, such as an YMCA. For a project that size, the council would need to talk to the New Prague Area School District, Mayo Clinic Health System and other groups about partnering and pooling resources.

The city and New Prague Community Education work together in operating the current pool. The city maintains the pool and community education staffs it and provides lessons. The council is still considering its options for both the pool and the armory