Heather Merrick grew up across the street from the Bellevue Municipal Swimming Pool. She learned to swim there, taught swimming lessons and even served as a lifeguard for a time.
These days, Merrick manages the entire facility, as well as the concession stand - and is looking forward to the 2019 season as the pool officially opened last weekend.
“This is my second year as pool manager, and people should know there are a lot of good things going on here,” said Merrick. “We have 8 certified Water Safety Instructors to give swim lessons this year. There are also 23 certified lifeguards; we have water aerobics Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. and we have a pretty good concession stand with French fries, nachos, popcorn and of course the snow cones, which are really popular.”
Merrick said the pool is open until school starts in late August and is open each day to the general public from 1 to 5 p.m. in the daytime, and again in the evening from 6 to 8 p.m.
The pool can also be rented for private parties during Heritage Days, there is free swimming for everyone.
While Merrick plays a big role managing the old swimming pool, there are other folks behind the scenes who have kept the facility up-to-par over the decades since it was first constructed way back in 1965.
In fact while the pool is 54 years old, it has consistently passed state inspections for water quality and cleanliness year after year.
Steve Engelman (known to many as ‘Ink’) has been the certified pool operator since 1993 and has kept the water clean and the mechanics of the facility running well. He is required to take a state exam every five years and obtain CEU training hours each year to keep up on any new pool regulations.
Constructed in 1965 at a cost of $72,000 ($586,000 in today’s dollars according to the Consumer Price Index), the Bellevue pool holds 165,000 gallons of water.
The pool itself was constructed with reinforced concrete, and the bathhouse of concrete block. Outside piping and inside piping are made of cast iron and copper.
The main system is an open vacuum diatomite pool level filter with a gas chlorination disinfection system.
The filtering equipment in the basement area of the main building is also from 1965, but still works quite well.
“If we run into mechanical problems with the original equipment, we get a lot of help from John Kieffer, who lives right across the street,” said Engelman. “Brian Roling also does a great job getting the pool cleaned up and ready for summer.”
Engelman noted that the Bellevue Municipal Pool gets inspected ever year by state and county officials.
“We had perfect inspections for the past three years,” said Engelman. “For a 54 year-old pool with most of the original equipment, that’s not too shabby.”
Many folks in town will remember back in the late 1960s and 1970s, the Bellevue pool was a hub of activity. Folks came regularly from all over the county; and students from Preston and Maquoketa used to be bussed to town for swimming lessons. Oftentimes, even live bands would perform at the pool.
The pool is still a popular summer destination for all ages during the summer, but Merrick would like to see more people at the city-owned facility.
“We want people to utilize the pool more,” said Merrick. “Even though it is an older pool, it is one of the safest and clean places around. If you haven’t been here for a while, please stop by.”
Both Merrick and Engelman added another important point about the municipal pool – the value of being able to take swimming lessons.
“Living next to the river, we need swimming lessons and safety programs like the ones offered here to teach our youth how to swim,” said Engelman. “That is certainly a skill that will come in handy some day.”