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Council directs Wellness planners to look into whirlpool option

Following a packed public informational meeting Thursday that saw many attendees voicing support of a whirlpool in the Regional Wellness Center, the Wadena City Council voted to investigate the possibility of adding a spa/whirlpool design to the wellness center plan.

In between the informational meeting and the council’s vote, Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden acknowledged the vocal support of the spa idea.

“We had a room full of people here tonight advocating pretty hard for a whirlpool,” he said.

However popular it may be, the whirlpool idea is not without its hitches. Nick Nowaki, an expert on aquatic systems brought in to provide insight on the spa issue during the public meeting, said whirlpools generally require intense upkeep and need to have their water replaced about once a week. They also are about 3-4 times as expensive to construct as regular pools per square foot, Nowacki said.

Steven Miller of Steven Miller Architects, the firm heading up the project design, said the installation of a whirlpool would require $80,000-$90,000 to be added to the budget if it was built within the existing building footprint and did not involve adding any additional space to the overall design.

 However, Michael Craig of the Wellness Center Fundraising Committee was not intimidated by the cost of putting in a whirlpool/spa. He said the committee could find the additional money if called upon to do so.

“If we had to get in another $80,000 or $90,000 to get in a spa: not a problem,” he said.

Nowacki recommended that if the city decided to put in a spa/whirlpool, it should be big enough so that it wouldn’t need to be cleaned as frequently as if it were smaller. More water equals more dilution of germs and contaminants, he said.

“If I put a spoonful of dirt into a glass of water, shake it up, it’s going to look dirty, it’s going to look cloudy,” Nowacki analogized. “If I put a spoonful of dirt into a 5-gallon bucket of water, it’s not going to look as dirty.”

City Administrator Brad Swenson felt the city’s money would be better invested in an operating reserve fund and taking care of finishing touches like floor tiles than adding a whirlpool.

“It’s not very glitzy (compared to) when you talk about adding a hot tub or a bigger gym, but in the long term… it’s more important,” he said.

However, Swenson wasn’t completely against the idea of putting a whirlpool.

“The people who were here want a hot tub, so let’s give them a hot tub,” he said.

After discussing the spa/whirlpool option, the council voted to direct the project planners to begin researching further into what installing a spa/whirlpool would take in terms of time, money and reallocation of space. Findings from that investigation were planned to be presented at a special meeting of the council at 5:30 Monday.