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Nikiski pool to get new boiler, other upgrades

The Nikiski pool.
Riley Board
The Nikiski pool.

The popular Nikiski pool is getting a new boiler and other upgrades, after the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved money for the project this month.

“We’ve got some aging infrastructure here,” said Eric Eleton, director of the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, which manages the pool. “It’s been here for a while, and generally we try to take care of them before they reach the end of their natural life, that way we’re not stuck with emergency projects.”

Eleton said the service area originally budgeted almost half a million dollars to replace their aging boilers, and planned to replace them with more high-efficiency tech that will hopefully reduce utility costs.

Then, the service area realized an additional $341,950 was needed to replace related infrastructure.

“When you install new boilers with aging pipes and pumps, it can cause issues,” Eleton said.

He said they’ll need to upgrade the whole system around the boiler to avoid issues in the future.

The assembly unanimously approved that money at its meeting earlier this month.

Nikiski’s is the only pool in the borough not attached to a school. Pools in Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and Seward are all located in Kenai Peninsula Borough School District buildings. That’s been an issue when the district faces a budget deficit. This year, the board of education voted to close the pools to make up the budget gap, while awaiting word on a budget increase from the state Legislature.

The Legislature did pass a one-time funding boost. Even so, district Superintendent Clayton Holland said at a recent board meeting that the district is considering shifting responsibility for the pools to the borough, so a similar situation doesn’t arise again.

Eleton said the Nikiski pool sees about 50,000 visitors a year.

“We get people, really, from all over the peninsula throughout the year,” he said. “Even in the wintertime, we’ll have people from Homer, Seward.”

When it comes to actually replacing the boiler, Eleton said it will happen during the pool’s annual three-week maintenance shutdown in September. However, the boiler project may take longer than the typical closure, which could be up to six weeks.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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