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Canton Selectmen Vote in Favor of Allocating $400,000 for Pool Improvements

Funds for the Mills Pond Pool would be taken from town’s reserves; Board of Finance approval needed.

With a vote by the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night, a proposal to take $400,000 from the town’s "contingency" fund for improvements to Mills Pond Pool will now go to the Board of Finance.

First Selectmen Richard Barlow advocated the proposal, contending that it would help get the facility through the next several years until the town is potentially ready to move forward with a plan for a new pool to replace the 50-meter facility built in 1973.  

The first selectmen said the money, potentially combined with the Small Town Economic Assistance Program funding the town may seek for the pool next year, would provide a way to fund larger items such as new decking, paint removal and plaster replacement on the pool shell and improving mechanical systems while bringing them all above ground in a separate structure.

Barlow also advocated forming a group with Parks and Recreation Director Brian Wilson, Parks commission members and Permanent Municipal Building Committee representatives to fine tune the recommendations.

Selectman Lowell Humphrey said he disagreed with the approach and raised other concerns.

Humphrey said he felt a group should be formed but should meet first then come back to the town seeking an appropriation.

Barlow said he felt the pool study selectmen received in March gave a good indication of what is needed to get it through the next several years. Appropriating the funds would also put the town in a good spot if it in fact applies for state Small Town Economic Assistance Program funds next year as selectmen have indicated the likely will.

Chief Administrative officer Robert Skinner said the improvements being discussed would cost about $590,000 and Wilson later said some of the improvements could carry over to a new facility. 

Humphrey countered the pool has lost $250,000 over the past five years. He argued that it might not be wise to spend so much on a facility near the end of its lifespan.

“I’m just not convinced that’s an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money,” he said, adding that the town has numerous needs that warrant further discussion on the issue.

During public forum at the beginning of the meeting, a couple of residents addressed the idea as well.

Wayne Goeben, who emphasized that he was speaking as a private citizen and not a member of any organization, asked the Board of Selectmen think carefully about the proposal and look at a “comprehensive list of what we need and we want and what we can afford.”

In addition Penny Phillips read a letter by Robert D. Miller, who could not make the meeting. Miller is the resident who started an online petition in a recent attempt to get funding for a new pool added as a potential bonding project that would go to voters in November.

Several will be on the November ballot. If approved the town would sell bonds and pay them back with interest over time. The pool, however, is not one of them and was not recommended by a study group that met earlier this year. A pool study was being done when they met but came out after they made their recommendations.

Miller’s letter contended it might not be too late to bond sooner than later. He said he supported the funding but asked selectmen to consider a committee that could come up with a proposal for a new pool and potentially hold a referendum for the facility before the first bonds are sold in 2013.  

The $400,000 could then offset the cost or if voted down could then be used for short-term repairs, the letter stated.

“Let us work together to put a plan in place that does more than just buy time,” he wrote. “Let us pursue all means possible to ensure that the pool remains a vibrant community asset for current and future generations.”

Other pool ideas were discussed as well.

One was revenue possibilities. Wilson said they are there with both 25- and 50-meter configurations but Skinner said it would be a balancing act because it would take time away from the public’s use. Some selectmen also questioned the park's ability to support the crowds.

The study recommends a 25-meter area with an attached but segregated recreational swimming area. Wilson said there are “bulkheads” available that can divide a larger area but added that they can also be expensive.

Wilson also answered several questions about the facility. If the town is looking at potentially bonding for a pool several years down the road, the decking will not last that long, he said.

Wilson also said that some of the improvements, such as the mechanicals, would carry over to a new facility. One is an above-ground filtration system.

“If you do that now and then build a new pool, you’ll still be able to use that infrastructure,” he said. "Piecing it together in the right way is important."

Fixing the shell would save about $20,000 a per year in annual maintenance costs, Wilson added. 

Selectmen voted 3-1-1 to send the recommendation to the Board of Finance. It is on the board's agenda for Monday, Sept. 17.

Officials said the estimated undesignated fund balance for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012 is $4.9 million, about 14.16 percent of the town's budget. Towns generally look to have from 5 to 15 percent in the fund and the Board of Finance in Canton has set a goal of 10 percent. 

Humphrey voted against while Barlow, David Gilchrist Jr. and Tom Sevigny supported it. Stephen Roberto abstained because he had to come to the meeting late and missed some of the conversation.

The pool study and other documentation can be found at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/m0tiyljr39trpts/5LP9rDC3eI

Wyatt September 13, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Great news.
Thomas September 14, 2012 at 10:58 AM
For who? There are way more important things needing work in the town of Canton than the pool! And you could start with the roads that get you there!!!
John Fitts (Editor) September 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Hi Thomas. I need to remain neutral but I assume you do know that the pavement management/garage question on the November ballot includes $6 million in proposed roadwork? http://patch.com/A-xwS9
Mike D September 14, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I just don't see how almost a half a million dollars is needed to repair the pool. It's seems from the plan for repairs there is a whole lot of fluff. Yes it would be nice to have all the trimmings around the pool, like a new patio, bathrooms and landscaping, but I think it's a waste. People seem to like it the way it is. Things change and if we spend $400k to fix and upgrade the pool, putting in new systems that god be used for a future pool, what happens when the plan changes and the pool moves to the highschool or some other location. We have then jsut wasted all that money. I say we just fix safety problems and call it a day until a new pool can be built. Mike
Jessica Giblin September 14, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I'm going to throw out the adage, "all work and no play" make Canton a pretty dull place to live. This town has a long way to go as far as recreation opportunities for our community. We need things like a pool and a track, just as much as we need driveable roads. We don't have nearly as many things to offer as other communities but we can get there with compromise and effort on the part of all of us working together. My daughter is on the swim team and we are the only competing team that cannot host a meet. Mike, I'm not sure sure who you've spoke to, but people don't like the pool the way it is, they are working with what we have. And let me tell you it is nothing compared to the pools in other towns. Take a ride to sycamore park in Avon and see what our town could potentially offer it's townspeople. I'm bet if we had a nicer facility we could draw more pool memberships. If we could host swim meets, we would bring more people into town. And when you spend 3-4 hours at a meet you are often looking for a meal afterward-which would also benefit local businesses. In any argument we will never make everyone happy, but we can certainly put forth an effort to try. I appreciate the Board listening to us and at least trying to work with us.
Betty September 14, 2012 at 01:49 PM
John, do you know, if any of the $400,000. address safety issues? I appreciate you including the study, I will read it ASAP.
Canton Taxpayer September 14, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Unfortunately, not all of us can afford the tax increases that will come with the "recreation opportunities" some would like in Canton. I think we all just need to see the cost implications and go from there. If the roads, garage and roof only cost us a few bucks a year, that's one thing - we need those....but they won't cost us a few bucks, there will be huge tax increases to pay for them. But when you add on the formerly $1.2m track/field which is now $3.4m -- plus a new pool -- the tax burden becomes very community-unfriendly.
Fred September 14, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I have to agree with Canton Taxpayer. Not everyone can afford the cost that will come with these projects. We cannot buy into the notion that because our neighboring town has a pool and track, we must have one too. There will never be a self-sustaining recreational fund, it will always require contribution from the tax base. Avon, our neighboring town also has a single-family residence on top of Avon Mountain that is in excess of 50,000 ft.² housing one family. We cannot simply compare the tax base. Unfortunately, we never know what these projects truly cost until it translates into our tax bill. if one must have such facilities, there's always the opportunity to purchase property in those towns that sport them. This town does not have a lot of things that people would like. I am not sure the time is right given the over arching need to fix our infrastructure. It is a shame that prior administrations have failed to provide maintenance such that the infrastructure is now crumbling to the point where it needs wholesale replacement.
Wyatt September 14, 2012 at 08:18 PM
@Fred. Fair enough - some people won't be able to afford tax increases. But does all progress need to halt because a few can't afford the tax increase?
Wyatt September 14, 2012 at 08:19 PM
@Thomas. Current and future residents of Canton.
John Fitts (Editor) September 14, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Betty I didn’t get a chance to ask Brian today about the mechanicals. It’s likely some people see the uneven and cracked decking as a safety issue.
Fred September 14, 2012 at 09:56 PM
@Wyatt, perhaps we can agree to disagree with the concept of progress. I don't consider "maintenance" progress. By the very term, it means to maintain. The 400K is for maintenance, not progress. Progress would be to rip it out and start over. As to the cost, CAO Skinner "the improvements being discussed would cost about $590,000." Who is paying the shortfall? What is the real cost? Then there was a lot of discussion surrounding replacement of the pool in the next bond issue. And yes, if the people can't afford a project, it should not go forward, the "progress" should stop. I know when I can't afford something from my savings, I can't buy it. Odd how we don't apply this concept in our local, state or federal governmental spending. Its like money comes from the heavens with no need to concern ourselves with reality.

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