The Conway City Council inched closer to the city having a community aquatics and recreation facility on Tuesday with a resolution approving Crafton Hull as the architectural team to plan and design the facility.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Ibbotson said the city received 15 responses in its request for qualifications (RFQs) by the deadline.

A committee – which included Ibbotson, Planning Director James Walden and Chief Financial Officer Tyler Winningham among others – reviewed the paperwork and then narrowed the field to five firms for interviews. After the interviews, the committee members ranked each firm on scale of 1-5 and Crafton Tull was selected based on having the highest overall score, Ibbotson said. Crafton Hull, based in Rogers but with offices in Conway, is a professional design and engineering firm.

Alderman Shelia Isby said after getting “input from the citizenry, what they would like to see in the community center” and doing benchmarking trips to other aquatic facilities in the state, she recommended the design should have showers on deck; a ramp for a therapy pool; a certified pool operator on staff; eight lanes for competitive swimming; a separate swim area for younger children; plenty of room for storage; a larger concession stand; and multi-purpose rooms that can be rented.

Alderman David Grimes shared an article he read in a weekly newspaper in Kansas City about an older pool in the area that temporarily shut down. Those residents wanted it there, according to the article, but wanted it to be “better, more fun.” The facility offered more amenities and reopened.

“We want it to be something that people want to go do. It has to be fun,” Grimes said of the Conway facility.

Alderman Andy Hawkins expressed concern that the city needs to ensure they “get this right rather than get it fast.”

Mayor Bart Castleberry told him not to worry.

“We’re going to get this right,” the mayor said, adding that the council would make all the decisions along the way. “They’ll come back with some designs. We can have a committee meeting, and they can bring in designs and dollar amounts. We just had to approve the team so they can get moving forward.”

In order to pay for the facility, the city plans to take a bond issue before the people with a special election.

“We’re hoping to get this before the voters in September,” Castleberry said.

Winningham told the Log Cabin Democrat the vote would be to refinance existing advertising and promotions (A&P) revenue bonds and would not change the current tax rate.

“The upcoming vote would be to refinance existing A&P revenue bonds, with no change to the tax rate. The A&P tax will remain in effect even if the vote fails,” Winningham said. “So either way, there will be no change to the existing tax rate in Conway. What the vote would do is extend the term that our bonded debt is outstanding. Current bonds are scheduled to pay off in 2028 … if this passes, it will extend that date out as far as 30 years.”

The bonds would generate around $25 million for the facility.

The resolution for the contract with Crafton Hull passed 7-0. Alderman Shelley Mehl was absent from the meeting.

“Well, folks, we’re on our way,” Castleberry said.

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at janderton@thecabin.net.

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