ELLIS — The Ellis City Council took a step toward replacing the city’s aging swimming pool.

The city council approved a contract with Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission, Hill City, for grant administrator services and other associated documents at its Monday night meeting to pursue a $1 million grant from the state to replace the pool. A 30-minute public hearing on the proposal was conducted prior to the meeting.

The city hired an engineer with Lamp Rynearson to prepare a preliminary report for the grant application, with the total projected cost at $1.85 million. The city has the $850,000 in reserve, but plans to apply for additional grants to help pay for its share.

The city’s pool was built in the 1930s under the Works Progress Administration, a federal employment and infrastructure program in the Great Depression, and has outlived the average life expectancy of 50 years for pools, according to information provided by the City of Ellis.

A vinyl liner was installed in 2009 at a cost of $76,000 to cover cracks, and while its life expectancy is through 2024, it has had to be patched numerous times. A new liner would cost up to $100,000 and there are concerns it would adhere properly to the crumbling foundation.

In January, the Kansas Department of Commerce announced its Community Development Block Grant Program will allow cities with populations of 500 to 25,000 to apply for funds for pool construction.

Justine Benoit of NKPDC told the commissioners this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“Since the Kansas Department of Commerce has opened their doors to do CDBG grants, they’ve never done a body of water,” she said.

While some in the public hearing and on the council expressed concern about the cost of the project, Benoit said proceeding with the contract is not a commitment. The grant application itself will not have a charge, since Ellis County is a member of NKPDC, Benoit said. The contract will go into effect if the grant is approved.

Even receiving the grant doesn’t mean the city has to go forward.

“We still have the opportunity to say no. That’s the thing I keep going back to. We’re not stuck with going forward if you say ‘yes’ to applying for a grant,” council member Holly Aschenbrenner said.