Greenwood ready to swim solo after ending contract with firm

After learning how to operate and manage an aquatic park and making a profit in its first year, Greenwood is ending a three-year contract with a pool engineering firm hired to help open and run the new facility.

Counsilman-Hunsacker was hired in January 2014 to review designs for Freedom Springs Greenwood Aquatic Park and conduct a feasibility study to compare expenses with potential revenue. But after a little more than a year, the parks department has decided the city no longer needs the firm’s help.

Now, Greenwood parks officials will make all decisions, such as extending pool hours, adding or removing attractions and making season projections. The parks department will save $80,000 during the next two years by ending the contract early, Parks Director Rob Taggart said.

Under the original $205,000 contract, the St. Louis-based firm agreed to help Greenwood plan for the center, including suggestions on pool hours, training lifeguards and referring concessions and pool supply vendors. Counsilman-Hunsacker designed Plainfield’s Splash Island Aquatic Park — the facility Greenwood wanted to model Freedom Springs after.

Once the pool opened, the firm helped with organizing the facility, educating pool staff about chemicals and offering instruction on how to maintain water quality.

The city’s goal was to end the contract before the end of the three-year period, Taggart said. Because of the pool’s success in the first year, he said, the parks department realized the firm no longer was needed.

“This was very new to us. But we familiarized ourselves with everything because we were so involved. This was always the goal, to do this on our own. We just felt like we picked this up very quickly,” Taggart said.

This month, park board members unanimously approved ending the contract. The three-year agreement allowed Greenwood to terminate the contract at no cost or penalty fee. The city spent about $125,000, which included a base fee, through the first year of the contract out of the parks department general fund. By terminating the contract, the department will save $80,000 over the remaining two years, Taggart said.

City officials had raised questions about whether the partnership was needed recently. At park board meetings this summer when financial reports on Freedom Springs showed the facility making a profit, board member Tom Bridges questioned whether the agreement with the firm was necessary.

Before the center was built, the firm had projected it would lose $200,000 annually between what it cost to run and what it would make. Instead, Freedom Springs finished its inaugural season with a profit of about $260,000.

When the firm concluded its feasibility study and told the city the facility would lose money, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers didn’t agree with the projections. He thought the city would do better than projected, he said.

After the first summer, Myers said, he and officials discussed moving on without the firm and brought it to the park board’s attention.

“We brought it up to the parks department, and Rob was confident they could run the facility and do a very successful job. I didn’t have a problem with opting out,” Myers said. “I’m confident that after one year we can put people in the right position to run the facility and market it. By opting out, we’ll have more in-house people who are more hands on.”

Hiring the firm was necessary during the first year the pool was open because the parks department needed the guidance and direction to run an aquatic park the size of Freedom Springs, Taggart said.

If the parks department took on another project such as Freedom Springs, where the staff would need assistance in planning, he wouldn’t rule out hiring another consultant, he said.

At a glance

The Greenwood Parks Department hired aquatic engineering firm Counsilman-Hunsacker in 2014 to help plan and manage operations at Greenwood’s new aquatic center. This month, the city decided to end the contract.

The contract.

The Greenwood Parks Department terminated a three-year contract with Counsilman-Hunsacker.

The company initially was hired to review the design of Freedom Springs Greenwood Aquatic Park and help prepare the city for its new aquatic center by educating the pool staff about chemicals and water quality and training lifeguards. The firm also helped with planning and operations, such as setting pool hours.

Why the city ended it.

The city learned how to market the aquatic center and manage operations in the first year of running the aquatic center and no longer needed the consultant.

The savings.

The city would have paid the aquatic engineering firm a total of $205,000 over three years.

The city already paid the firm $125,000 for the first year. The parks department will save about $80,000 over the next two years.

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2719.