ANCRAM—So what if we seem stuck in the winter that will never end, the Town Board is thinking about the town’s swimming pool.
After Ancram Fire Chief David Boice finished making his regular monthly comments about fire company news at the March 20 Town Board meeting, Town Supervisor Art Bassin asked him for his thoughts on the swimming pool.
Mr. Boice has been tending to the pool for many years and probably knows the pool better than anyone.
The Ancram pool is the only outdoor municipal swimming pool in the county, according to Acting Environmental Health Supervisor Jack Mabb with the Columbia County Health Department, which inspects the pool annually for things like water clarity, signage and fencing.
Building a new pool, possibly near the Town Hall or repairing and improving the aging pool are items appearing on the board’s Priorities and Issues list for this year.
Mr. Boice, who noted that the pool was built before he was born, said he didn’t know if making a major investment in the pool would increase attendance there. He said the pool “operates well, it does everything we ask it to do.”
Mr. Bassin asked what kind of upgrades might benefit the pool. Mr. Boice said some new fencing, pool decking and bathroom improvements could be done but that the pool would “still provide the same service.”
Mr. Bassin wondered if any “catastrophic failure” was imminent.
“You don’t see many concrete pools that operate. Most pools are fiberglass. It’s a testament to how well we’ve been able to maintain it,” said Mr. Boice, noting the pool should last as long as it is properly opened and closed.
He said maybe applying a layer of fiberglass inside the pool would help curtail the need to paint the inside of the pool every year.
Councilperson Madeleine Israel wondered what could be done to make the pool more inviting.
Supervisor Bassin said that perhaps more people have “other resources” for swimming now—their own pools at home.
Mr. Boice said the town could look into adding some kind of food service at the pool, which would require the addition of staff. But “how reasonable would that be for six weeks?” he asked.
Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur suggested the addition of a “tiki bar” would be nice.
The pool does not attract a lot of adults, said Mr. Boice, “It’s a town pool that teaches kids to swim and that’s an honorable thing.”
In a follow-up phone call this week, Supervisor Bassin said the town’s biggest cost associated with the pool is lifeguards, at $15,000/year. Many of the pool lifeguards are teens who first learned to swim at the pool. Miscellaneous repairs and supplies like chlorine run another $5,000. He said last year the town invested in some poolside furniture so adults would have a place to relax while the kids swim.
Mr. Bassin said he had no estimate on what a new pool would cost and noted that the location of the old pool near Blass field, where the town’s summer camp program operates seems to work well for youngsters who take swimming lessons in conjunction with that program.
What the board will decide to do is still open for discussion.
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ACCORDING TO TOWN Historian Clara Van Tassel, reached by phone this week, the town pool adjacent to Blass Memorial Field on County Route 7 just south of the firehouse, was built in 1960.
When the town first decided a place for recreation was in order, residents—adults and youngsters—pitched in to make the ball field by raking it and carting away the rocks. The property was owned by the town and the highway garage used to be there, said Mrs. Van Tassel, who grew up across the street.
When the ball field was finished the town named it and dedicated it to Wallace Blass, who was the only Ancram resident to give his life fighting for the country during World War II.
Shortly after the ball field was completed, the Ancram Youth Commission, the group in charge of town fun, decided to build a swimming pool. On the youth commission at the time were: Mike Porter, Frank Townley, Ed Simons, Irving Earl and Claude Louck. A local man, Aaron Alexander was the pool architect.
The town entered into a contract with the Paddock Pool Company of Albany to build the pool for $12,600. Constructed of concrete, the pool is 9 feet 6 inches deep and 20 feet wide at the deep end; 40 feet wide at the shallow end which descends from 3 to 5 feet deep over a length 35 feet.
The money to build the pool came strictly from donations. No tax money was used.
Mrs. Van Tassel said she and other Ancram mothers, like Jane Dwy and Barbara Simons, spent many summer hours with their children at the pool. It was at a time when it was unusual for mothers to work outside the home. Youngsters took part in playground activities in the morning and spent the afternoon in the pool under the watchful eyes of their mothers, who got a chance to socialize at the same time. The pool also originally had an accompanying kiddie pool, which has since been filled in and also had a diving board and a slide, both of which were removed for insurance reasons. –Diane Valden