Pool project celebrated

Register Reporter

Register/Richard luken
Jefferson Elementary School fifth-grader Valaree Burtnett cuts the ribbon during a ceremony Friday to mark the reopening of the Iola Municipal Pool. The pool officially reopens for the first time since the 2007 flood on Monday.

Bill Shirley gets asked about city issues from time to time.
The letter he received from Iolan Valaree Burtnett was particularly noteworthy, he said. It’s not often that fifth-graders send letters to City Hall.
Burtnett, who just completed fifth grade at Jefferson Elementary School, had a number of questions about the rebuilt Iola Municipal Pool.
Why was it smaller? What features were added? Would it reopen on time?
“She wrote me several worthwhile letters,” said Shirley, an Iola city commissioner said during Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the swimming pool. “I thought it was noteworthy that a fifth-grader had that much concern about her community.”
The two conversed occasionally as the pool’s rebuilding project progressed.
That was why Shirley requested Burtnett handle the ribbon-cutting honors. They were joined by representatives from Continental Pools of Gardner and Prosser Wilbert Construction of Lenexa, the firms in charge of the pool’s reconstruction.
Also on hand were Iolans Vic and Maxine Perkins and Stub Heigele, who also happened to be at the pool when it first opened in the summer of 1938.
Shirley noted the pool’s history, including several referendums that were required before it was included as a Works Progress Administration project. He also pointed out an unusual city ordinance passed as the pool opened, which required all users to wear swimming suits.
“It took me a couple of days to get the hang of that,” Perkins joked.
Heigele recalled the pool’s first manager, Harland George, a local physical education teacher who would astonish his students by circling the pool deck on his hands.
Nobody at Friday’s ceremony offered to repeat the feat.
Iola City Administrator Judy Brigham recalled visiting the pool on Thursday evening to check on last-minute cleaning projects. She noticed each of Riverside Park’s ball diamonds were occupied, and the distinctive clink of horseshoes being tossed in the horseshoe pits.
“There were at least two birthday parties going on, too,” Brigham said.
The goings-on convinced Brigham that rebuilding the flood-damaged pool at Riverside “is right,” she said. “It just feels right.”
Brian Lowe of Continental Pools spoke about the pool’s design. It was kept rectangular for safety (it would require fewer lifeguards) and is capable of being expanded if demand dictates.
Shirley, Mayor Bill Maness and Brigham each lauded Continental and Prosser Wilbert for getting the project done on time and under budget.
“It’s been a fantastic project,” Brigham said.
The pool, closed since the 2007 flood, reopens for the 2009 season on Monday.