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Price of new pool isn't child's play

The pool will be 18 feet in diameter. It will hold enough water to dampen an adult's feet, maybe the ankles.

But even though the new toddler wading pond at Whispering Pines Park is designed for little ones, its construction carries a giant price tag.

The city is paying a Largo company $37,340 to build the pool, install a sophisticated filtration system and extend a deck and block walls, according to records. The kiddie pool _ capacity 25 _ should open sometime next month.

That kind of cash could finance a backyard swimming hole that would turn your neighbors green with envy. Yet public officials say the cash does not stretch so far when sunk into a public pool, which must meet stringent state guidelines for health and safety.

"Basically, (the cost) is in line with what we had anticipated," said Patricia Smith, director of parks and recreation for Inverness.

The pool filter is what drives the construction price so high, Smith said. Aquamarine Swimming Pool Co. of Largo is charging $17,800 for that equipment and work alone.

Why so much money? According to the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, a toddler pool must have a 60 gallons-per-minute recirculation rate and an elaborate filtration system, Smith said.

That is far more protection than most residents want for their backyard pools, Smith said. Then again, most residents do not have to worry about the "accidents" that usually occur when hordes of young waders huddle near flowing water.

In addition to the filtration system, the city had to pay for engineering work, site clearing, construction of a deck and protective fence, utilities, sod and other work, according to records.

The toddler pool will be alongside the park's main pool and will share an extended deck with its larger counterpart.

"It will be one big complex. We didn't want to separate them," Smith said.

Sue Mains of Freestyle Custom Pools Inc. in Lecanto said her company considered bidding on the Whispering Pines project but eventually did not. In fact, Aquamarine was the only company to submit a bid on the project.

After a reporter told her about Aquamarine's prices, Mrs. Mains did not sound surprised. "I would say that's a pretty okay price," she said.

But she concedes her company, as well as any pool builder, could do quite a bit if given such money for a residential project.

Mrs. Mains said her company could build a 15- by 30-foot back yard pool with deck, heater, ionizer and cleaning mechanism plus arrange for a screened porch for about $28,000.

"We could put in a pretty nice (residential) pool for that money," she said.

The high price for wading pools do not apply only in Inverness.

County officials are thinking about installing a toddler pool at the Bicentennial Park Pool. Parks and Recreation Director Karen Barnett said the company that built the park's original pool estimates the kiddie version will run about $42,000.

"It gets expensive," she said.

Barnett said the county probably will wait to see how the Whispering Pines toddler pool works out before going ahead with its own plans. She also said she would prefer construction start in non-summer months, when the pool is not used as much.