ANCRAM—The town swimming pool should stay put.
That’s the conclusion of a committee formed to evaluate the economics, usage, structural and site considerations associated with keeping the pool where it is at Blass Memorial Field and making some improvements or building a new pool on the Town Hall grounds, about three quarters of a mile away.
Bob Wilcox, town justice, a member of the town’s Financial Advisory Council (FAC) and the council’s pool subcommittee, presented the Pool Committee findings at the March 19 Town Board meeting.
According to a comprehensive pool report compiled by the committee, the land for Blass Memorial Field on County Route 7, just south of the Route 82 intersection in the Ancram hamlet, was sold to the town for $1 by Louis Peppe in 1954. Mr. Peppe was the proprietor of the Ancram Tavern, which once stood where the firehouse addition is now.
In 1960, 19 town residents signed a $10,500 loan note to build the pool, which opened in 1962 at a cost of $12,600 by the Paddock Pool Company of Albany. No tax money was used to build the pool, all funds were donated.
The report says the pool requires minor repairs every year. This year that will involve “bringing the gate into compliance.” After 53 years, all the pool facilities: the bath house, the mechanicals/equipment shed, pool decking, pump and filters, interior pool surface, fencing and gate “are nearing the end of their useful lives.” Routine operation of the pool costs the town $29,000 annually, half for lifeguards and half for supplies/maintenance, the report says.
Use of the pool has remained consistent over the last three years at 750 total uses (swimmers) during the 65 days the pool is open annually. On days that the Ancram Kids Camp operates there are an average of 30 swimmers and on non-camp days the average is 8. Pool capacity is 71.
Acknowledging the low attendance numbers, Mr. Wilcox said, “If a person dropped in from outer space and looked at nothing other than usage, they’d say, ‘Are you guys nuts?’”
But there are a lot of good reasons to keep the pool, including the 19 people who signed the note to make it happen, said Mr. Wilcox, and “preserving town history,” according to the report, which notes, “While the pool may not be hundreds of years old and George Washington did not swim there, the unique circumstances of its existence gives the [pool] special status and consideration in the lore of the Town.”
The cost to upgrade the existing pool could run anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000. At the low end, that would be for new decking, fencing and gates. At the high end, spending would include fully resurfacing/refurbishing the existing pool structure, installing new pumps and filters and constructing a new 40 x 60-foot building to house an equipment room, changing rooms and bathrooms and a pavilion sitting area.
Accomplishing all these pool-related upgrades would be far cheaper than the estimated $850,000 it would cost to build a new pool and accessories. The price tag also includes demolition of the old pool and remediation of that site.
In the short term, the pool committee and the FAC recommend reopening the existing pool with some upgrades. In the long term, when the existing pool ceases to be operational at a reasonable cost, the town will have to deal with the question of whether it wants to support a town pool. Addressing that issue will involve the formation of a large committee with broad representation and extensive communication via email, the town newsletter and meetings with local organizations, public workshops and a questionnaire.
The report says the committee will spend the next few months leading up to the next budget cycle, collecting information to support the Town Board discussion and decision of a town pool. Both the FAC and the pool committee agreed that additional investment in the pool will be dependent on a significant increase in use.
Following on the notion of dwindling pool use, discussion at the Town Board meeting turned to the declining number of children and young families in town.
Town Clerk Monica Cleveland noted the inability of young families, her own included, to afford to purchase a house in town. Town Supervisor Art Bassin mentioned predicted plummeting school enrollment.
“This is more of a retirement community now. Taxes and home prices have become exorbitant” and not affordable for families, said resident Donna Hoyt.
In keeping with the “senior community” that she says the town has become, Mrs. Hoyt suggested making a park by the pool, a facility that “seniors would want to use” and stop “depending on children.”
In other business, the Town Board decided to buy two new plow/dump trucks instead of just one. Back in January, Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur asked for one new fully equipped 10-wheeler. The board wasn’t sold on the idea of a new truck and asked Mr. MacArthur to look around for a good used truck.
After comparing prices on three new trucks an International for $209,000, a Mack for $208,000 and a Kenworth for $193,000; getting a 1.99% interest rate on a new truck loan; hearing that the town would probably have to buy another new truck in a couple of years; hearing that the Highway Department would save $20,000 in maintenance/repair costs annually with the purchase of a new truck and consulting with the FAC, the board, based on a suggestion by Councilman Chris Thomas, decided that buying two new Kenworth trucks now would be a good idea.
Supervisor Bassin said the town will borrow $400,000 for 5 years at an annual payment of $80,000. The town will sell the two trucks to be replaced, reducing the cost of the loan by about $20,000. With those and other steps the supervisor said the truck purchase would not increase taxes.
The next Town Board meeting is April 16 starting at 6:30 p.m. with a review of the school budget, followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m.
To contact Diane Valden email .