Pool restorers

 Ben Cole, left, city of Barron, and Mike Roe, owner of Backwoods Finishes, stand next to the repaired portion of the Barron Municipal Swimming Pool. Photo by Bob Zientara

It was August 2018 when the city of Barron announced that the 45-year-old municipal swimming pool was leaking hundreds of gallons of water per day.

Operations shut down soon afterward as authorities discussed what to do about the problem. City worker Ben Cole, who serves as pool facility coordinator, offered to work on repairs.

More than nine months later, the work is done (at least on one side of the pool) and the popular Barron summer attraction reopened on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

“I have to record what I’ve done on a timecard,” Cole said during an interview on Friday, June 7. “I would guess my work took about two months, all told.

“So much of it had to be done by hand — I did plenty of shovel work,” Cole added. “In 20-20 hindsight I guess I would rather have had a contractor come in, but we’re proud of the work we did.”

Cole said he worked primarily on the east side of the pool — the part nearest to the dressing rooms. Digging around that side of the pool revealed 11 water jets that were worn out, leaking, and in need of replacement.

After the digging and repairs were finished, two local contractors helped to complete the project. Rick Meyer poured concrete where the excavation had taken place. Mike Roe, Backwoods Finishes, was hired to paint the interior of the pool.

“Whether it solves all the leaking problems, we still don’t know,” Cole said. “I can say that the water loss is down significantly from what it was last year.”

Cole said he’s still surprised the pool can reopen now.

“I honestly didn’t expect to be open until July, but Mike did a heck of a job,” he said. “I even saw him here over Memorial Day weekend.”

Opened in May 1973, the pool was the product of a combined effort by the Barron Kiwanis Club, the City Council, the Wallace H. Jerome Foundation, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which granted the city $66,058 toward total cost.

On July 13, 1972, the city awarded a bid to Sauk City, Wis.-based Badger Swimming Pools to install the facility. The winning bidder charged just under $117,000 for the job.

The total cost of the pool was $152,816.60, including landscaping, fencing and other related costs, according to a final audit taken after the pool opened.

Over the years, maintenance work helped to prolong the life of the pool, which was reportedly supposed to last about 30 years.

But time took its toll. In August 2018, the City Council learned the pool was going to require nearly 2.5 million gallons of water to finish the summer season. Under normal circumstances, the 250,000-gallon pool is supposed to use about 750,000 gallons in a normal season.