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Town Meeting Vote Will Determine Whether Canton Spends up to $12,500 to Study Feasibility of Year-Round Pool Operation

Petition filed at Town Clerk’s Office Thursday; advocates want to verify whether pool could be self sustaining or even profitable with architectural cover and increased programming.

With the successful filing of a petition Thursday morning, a town meeting will be held to determine whether the Town of Canton should spend as much as $12,500 for a feasibility study on converting Mills Pond Pool to a year-round facility. 

Town Clerk Linda Smith said she has verified that there were more than 150 valid signatures to petition a town meeting on the issue. 

Filed by resident Rob Miller the petition is to hold a town meeting vote on whether the town should tap into the Mills Pond Pool Evaluation and Improvements Account to fund the study. 

The measure would have to pass at the meeting with at least 75 affirmative votes, according to town charter. 

Park and Rec Commission member Frank Culkin recently presented the Board of Selectmen with research he had conducted on the issue. Culkin has estimated that with an architectural covering the town could generate enough revenue to make the pool self sustaining and even profitable. Culkin asked selectmen to consider funding an independent study to validate — or challenge — the conclusions.   

Most selectmen, however, balked at the proposal. First Selectman Richard Barlow stated the selectmen had clearly charged the Park and Recreation Commission to come forward with a recommendation. 

At that previous selectmen's meeting, Culkin acknowledged the commission had not come to that consensus. According to Park and Rec. commission minutes and statements by commission member Chris Eckert, some members felt the town has not determined its long-range plan for the pool. Some other members questioned some of Culkin's numbers and said the money should be reserved in case $400,000 in previously approved pool improvements go over budget. (See more of the background in this earlier Patch story).

However, the commission met Thursday night and despite several voiced reservations the four members in attendance voted 3-1 in favor of making the recommendation, using similar wording to the petition (stated below). Chris Eckert, Bev Hammond, Frank Culkin voted in favor and Ben Holden opposed. 

There was much discussion the proposal. Culkin said he felt there would be many benefits such as jobs, programs, the ability to break even or raise money, provide a place for swim teams and possibly even open the possibility of a high school team. 

But Culkin said he felt the study would support his findings or invalidate them. 

"I think it makes sense for us to look at this," he said. 

Earlier in the meeting Holden expressed several concerns such as energy supply and usage, the scope of the study and heating costs. He said he had agonized over whether to support it and wanted the commission to further discuss it. 

"At least in part, it’s a question of timing," he said. "I would like to discuss this but I do not see committing the town to spend that money at this time.

Holden also spoke against voting on a recommendation, stating that the town meeting was the higher authority. He lauded Culkin for his courage in presenting the plan. 

At this point it remains to be seen if selectmen take any formal action with the recommendation since the petition has already filed but at the beginning of their meeting Parks and Recreation Director Brian Wilson told the commission it was something selectmen had emphasized they were looking for. 

On Friday, Barlow said he was pleased to see a recommendation and confirmed selectmen would likely take no action pending the result of the town meeting.

"There's no benefit for the board to take action on the recommendation because ultimately it's in the hands of the voters at the town meeting," Barlow said.

He did, however, say he wants to clarify where the idea falls among the commission's priorities. 

The Board of Selectmen will likely meet Feb. 6 to set a date for the town meeting. Officials said they anticipate the meeting would be held at the Canton High School auditorium at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19. That date, however, would need to be confirmed. 

The petition read as follows: 

We, the undersigned persons qualified to vote in Town Meetings, hereby petition that the Canton Board of Selectmen conduct a Special Town Meeting to discuss and vote on whether the Town of Canton shall hire an independent consultant at a cost not to exceed $12,500 from the Mills Pond Pool Evaluation and Improvements Account to conduct a feasibility study on enclosing the municipal pool located at Mills Pond Park with a removable structure that would allow for year round operation and expanded aquatic programming.

Thomas February 01, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Go to the Y in Simsbury or Farmington Farms and put the 12.5K to good use!
Donna Carney February 01, 2013 at 03:12 PM
please show up at a special town meeting and vote against this please these people signed this at a kids basketball game were told it was to save the pool, if it was such a great idea why do you have to lie to get people to sign up....will be there to vote against this.....you are taking money from fixing this pool if this idea is good now it will be in 3 years why now??? we "Canton" have the most seniors in the state and they live on fixed income can you tell me they will be allowed to go without taking away from the money they have to spend on food. Yes if you have lot of money you can spend it the way you wish but canton people are smarter then this they have always looked after each other and looked at the whole picture if it is a great idea it will be next year. we have to fix this pool just to open up which will be here sooner then you think back bunner think about it what is the rush....we need schools, roads and other things what is more important to you
N. Jon I. Twist February 01, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Let us repair the pool, and be sure there are no fatal flaws, before we spend more money. What is the big rush? This sounds like a kid with money burning a hole in his pocket.
Rob Miller February 01, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Keeping more dollars in our town is a sound fiscal strategy. If we spend $12k now to determine if we can convert our pool from a $60k/year loss to the town into a break-even situations, then we save the town $600k over the next 10 years. As for the community benefits, a year round facility will benefit a wide range of citizens, many of which may not have the ability to easily travel to Simsbury or Farmington for alternatives. I think it's a reasonable investment given the potential opportunity.
Kathy S. February 01, 2013 at 07:02 PM
I support investing in the pool. A facility which operated year round would meet the needs of all Canton residents. Let's take the can't out of Canton.
Betty February 01, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Rob, How will the losses through 2018 (see pages 16, 17, and 18 of the insert) impact people living on a fixed income? How will it impact all of our tax bills? I personally would like to see a year round pool ASAP and thought it should be a bigger priority than the track and field because it would help a much more diverse group of Canton residents and taxpayers. However, we are now committed to the track and field. I am concerned that we may be investing in a pool that has seen better days. Is it penny wise and pound foolish? I am concerned that we have had the need for so many critical repairs for so many years. We are still looking at trying to build a town garage for, I can't recall, has it been for 23 years? The Road Study pointed out that we needed approximately 18 million dollars worth of road repairs and we learned that if we do not make the needed repairs in time the cost to replace the roads would be much more, I can't recall was it 4 to 5 times more. YIKES! We have not created much in the way of new revenue for the last 12 years, the EDA used to have a list on their web site it was created by Barry Dickstein, I believe. All the things that Canton needs and /or wants do not seem overwhelming when reviewed one by one, but when you add them up it is extremely overwhelming to me and many others. It is unfortunate that we were unable to prioritize what the voters were willing to pay for now. All these only $50. more add up for many in Canton.
Rob Miller February 01, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Hello Betty, page 18 shows the difference between the current pool revenue/loss versus the estimated revenue/loss associated with a year round facility. After losing an additional $39,000 in year 1, the estimates show that the pool generates a profit thereafter; a significant one ($150,000+) by 2018. Assuming these estimates are reasonable - which a feasibility study will investigate - the impact on taxpayers should be positive as the pool will generate monies versus losing them (at a cost to taxpayers). This does not account for initial costs, of course, but those are reasonable and can be paid for with the incremental revenues from expanded pool programming revenue. The intent of this proposal is to put in place a plan that makes the pool inherently more sustainable by enabling it to support itself financially; and expand services for all community residents at the same time. I hope this helps. ~Rob
Donna Carney February 01, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Yes this could maybe make the town money down the road, first what will our seniors be paying? our seniors pay 20.00 a year because most live on fixed income and can't afford a vacation or air cond. so this is their way to cool off and relax. You can't make me believe that when you soak all this money into making it year round it will still cost the seniors 20.00 if so put it into writting and make it a town order to protect our seniors, most have trouble paying the 20.00. Second if money was put into this pool for the last 40 years it would not be this bad off and we had to beg borrow and steal to get the town to invest in keeping it going, now all of a sudden you want to spend more money on another study what is wrong with the study you just spent 20,000.00 on???? woop did I ask that question out loud??? we need to do what is best for our town first and for most. we need roads, schools and other things more important then a covered pool, maybe they should raise the money for this themselves for this study now that is an idea........I have lived here 40 years and did fine we swam in the river and swimming hole and we all did fine Canton is still up and running. We seem to have these new homes with people not from here who come in and wish to change everything....Canton is special because of the people who live in it and they all need to come and vote against this for now maybe down the road it might be something to look into but it is foolish to waist tax payers money
Lori Coleman February 01, 2013 at 11:57 PM
We moved to Canton less than a year ago and were attracted to the town in part because of the sports facilities the town provides for our four children and the family atmosphere that exists here. We truly enjoyed spending the summer at Mills Pond Pool and were happy to see that people of all ages enjoyed the pool. I felt very comfortable as an adult swimming in the pool and relaxing there with my family. We would love to have a year-round facility to enjoy and hope that people will be willing to spend a relatively small amount on a feasibility study. If the costs to make the pool into a year-round facility are astronomical, then it may not be an option, but if the town could find a cost-effective way to make the pool available year-round, I feel we should at least look into it. Lori Coleman
Jennifer Pavlonnis February 02, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Wow! To think that one of the reasons why I LOVE Canton is that it kept it's small town essence found mainly from the residents of the town. I can now see that the feeling isn't always mutual. Those people who live those "new homes" invest in this town because we believe in this town, Canton that is just in case there was confusion. WE want to see it grow and prosper. WE will not apologize for trying to make this town our own, because it is OUR HOME, The last decade of my votes and taxes more than establishes Canton as my home. And you are right, Canton is special because of the people who live in it, even if they don't agree with you. Your arguments are specious at best. We do not wish to weaken our senior community, we are trying to strengthen our town, that includes all. The Mills Pond Pool offers the community another place of gathering . This encourages community involvement for OUR youth as well as the entire community. Building a better facility that will benefit the community as well as support itself, strengthens the town. It just makes sense.
tjb February 02, 2013 at 12:39 AM
This seems like an obvious choice. It will make money for the town. It will help everyone who uses the pool to have it available to them (even the seniors) on an annual basis.. And it will, as Lori commented, make the town a more appealing place to live for prospective buyers. When that happens it improves everybody's home value. seniors to get a discount and I'm sure they still will. I was disappointed to see the lack of support from our long term Canton residents. In response to some of the comments about the "new people" they have helped the town as public servants in government and their payment of taxes as well as they're huge role is our PTO. The ideas that are coming from our "new" residents with financial knowledge have proven to be valuable. This one in particular is going to be beneficial to the town.
Bill Roberts February 02, 2013 at 01:13 AM
The pool study is a great idea. The pool is a great asset for the town and something the town should support and further develop.
Patti February 02, 2013 at 01:17 AM
Putting a cover on an old pool isn’t going to be the extent of the spending. We need to think about what a facility like this would need to function properly. The RT 44 end of East Hill Rd is to narrow and has no sidewalks and a light would need to be added to the Dowd Ave end, not to mention the problem with the intersection of Simonds Ave and Old Canton Rd would pose. Where would you put all the needed parking? Should we lose the tennis courts and/or ball fields? How about locker rooms, a food concession and bathrooms for all the people who will be attending these money making events? If this is going to be such a profitable venture, why hasn’t a private company come in to build a pool. They could site it out in Canton Center where there is plenty of land, the extra traffic and parking wouldn't be an issue there. Why do the taxpayer have to subsidize your wish to swim? I’d like to go to a health club on a regular bases, but I don’t expect the taxpayers to provide it for me. We need to get out priority straight people, our infrastructure is much more important and needs to be taken care of before we raise our taxes yet again on something that a few people want.
tmb February 02, 2013 at 01:29 AM
I take great offense to the comment 'new people not from here'. What kind of American statement is that? All we are trying to do is better our wonderful little town. This is more like Bedford Falls not Pottersville. After that statement, I'm now totally disgusted by that insinuation that 'we new people' are ruining 'your town'. Well I came here eight years ago and have been raising my children here, volunteering and working to making to make the town better and here is Rob Miller, a fine man who apparently knows a bit about finance and has acutely shown such a project will not only enhance our town's appeal, but actually will draw MORE NEW PEOPLE like us that love the town. Sounds as though you've lost that love for your fellow neighbor, whether old or new. And that's sad...
kva February 02, 2013 at 01:33 AM
We owe it to ourselves to spend the $12K for the fesibility study. Good town amenities attract new buyers, and we could all use the help here. As a resident, my family would use this facility all the time. Let's grow Canton and make it into the best community it can be.
Glenn Arnold February 02, 2013 at 02:45 AM
I support the investment of $12,500 for a feasibility study to determine if making the pool a covered year round facility makes sense for our town. The vision of creating a year round facility would bring a great deal of value to Canton residents and bring a significant number of people from other nearby towns. Attracting people from other towns to use the facility would not only make this a profitable venture, but it would also benefit other Canton businesses. If the analysis justifies the investment, this would be a huge value add to the quality of life for all citizens of our town.
kp February 02, 2013 at 03:06 AM
It would seem like spending 3% of the already budgeted money to analyze the feasibility of enclosing the pool is fiscally responsible. We need to learn to think outside the box sometimes and as is the pool is a financial drain on town. Why not allow an independent expert to look into the plausibility of the proposal.
Pierce February 02, 2013 at 06:14 AM
The town pool is our only recreational facility we have, and we need to be doing whatever we can to improve it. This plan has been set forth as the best possible solution to the issue at hand, and if we sit idly by and do nothing, this asset will go to waste. I fully support the investment of $12,500 for a feasibility study to determine if making the pool a covered year round facility makes sense for our town. I already know it does, and can't wait to see the proof.
Stephanie February 02, 2013 at 01:54 PM
I am all for a year round facility. I have 3 children who love to swim. Why should we give our money to the surrounding towns when there's an opportunity to keep the revenue here.
Deirdre Lloyd February 02, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Fifteen years ago we landed in Central Connecticut for the first time, looking to buy a home. The FIRST place our real estate took us was the Simsbury town pool complex. She made a strong point about the value of a community gathering place and its impact on the town residents' lives. We are glad we chose a home in Canton and encouraged that our town has the opportunity to have a year round pool of its own. Of course this only remains an attractive option if professionals who understand its impacts study it and provide answers to many of the good questions raised concerning its cost; parking issues; etc. I support spending the money on the feasibility study so informed decisions can be made.
Bob Franks February 02, 2013 at 02:42 PM
I also support the study and believe that out greatest errors in history are when we do not invest in the future. Living in a community means taking care of our old, young and everyone in between. I love Canton. I have lived here for eight years and never want to move. My children love this town. It is our home. Any investment in the future of this community is a good one-- Especially when it is thoughtful and well executed. I applaud the efforts of those wanting to make Canton a better community for all. I am also heartened to see the democratic process at work. I fully support the investment in a prudent study of the feasibility of a year round pool facility. If you believe in this town's future and care about building a stronger community, I hope you will too!
Gary February 02, 2013 at 04:43 PM
This is an issue of more than a pool. It is about the vitality and vibrancy of a town. Canton is in competition for new businesses, new residences, and keeping current residences including the next generation. There are many needs to be met such as roads, schools, police, etc. but what can improve the quality of life for everyone is a facility like an indoor pool. This will not only generate revenue, it will also help keep taxes down as well so that we do not have to make choices of where we spend our resources. This is an opportunity to do so rather than continue to keep the status quo. A town can keep its historic past though proper zoning and architectural design but we cannot ignore the future and the opportunities of keeping Canton as place to live with a good quality of life. If we do not do more to attract businesses, retails (shops, restaurants, etc.) then Canton may be destined to fade as other communities develop and become the first choice of new businesses and residences. It is unrealistic and dangerous to continue to think Canton will stay always remain the same. I support the indoor pool and other developments that can improve the town education system, finances and function, respect history, and grow the town to improve the quality of life with the modern conveniences of life. The Shoppes has proven that already. We all have a choice to where we live, work, and play and Canton should be the first place we think about and not the alternative. Gary T.
Donna Carney February 02, 2013 at 06:13 PM
so your saying take the money and do the study if we do the study ok we need to open this pool soon a lot has to be fixed before this happens it almosted didn't open this past year we were in the 11 hour and passed by the skin of our teeth this pool needs repairs to be opened in the amount of thousands there was just a study that the town paid 20,000 for now we need another one then we might need another. Guess what when you take all the funds and do your studies there will be on funds for repairs. then what???? are the good folks of canton going to be opening their pockets to pay for the repairs to fix our pool? and when this cover is passed the seniors live on a fixed income and some go without food to pay the 20.00 i heard it might cost them up to 100.00 or more please that is like charging them a million dollars it isn't fair that they go without this at all no one is speaking for them, why? we need to fix this pool and fix our roads our schools hell we need another school bad they are considering sending 6th grade to jr.high if that happpens it will be a problem for sure.There are to many needs before a inclosed pool.our kids and our seniors are worth so much more. All i am trying to do is keep Canton the best place on earth for all including the poor and seniors....thank you
1Townie'sPointOfView February 02, 2013 at 11:20 PM
As a lifelong resident who has experienced firsthand many a 'battle' of newly proposed expenditures - Canton Village shopping plaza, EVERY housing development- including one that ripped through my back yard- the CURRENT Mills Pond Pool- to where I transitioned from swimming in the 'old mud hole' --rails for trails- which parallels my entire property! - And oh yes, the track at CHS which I know significantly impacted many neighbors... Bottom line... why not let the study fly? At least this endeavor proposes utilizing an EXISTING SITE- not barreling through or paving over untouched land, woods or wetlands! Let ALL have a say - the vote should determine... not a few squeaky wheels or politicians that aren't in favor. I believe this project could truly benefit a broader range of citizens of ALL ages ALL year round and ultimately become a revenue earning asset providing a facility that would be enjoyed for generations. Would things need be considered such as E Hill road among others? Yes-- isn't that the point of a study? To determine feasibility by recognizing what would be required to make it work in the best possible way ? The time to investigate this project is now while the topic is hot and interest is high.
MRW February 03, 2013 at 02:38 AM
I agree that we should do the study. We all have questions, but until the study is done we won't know the real answers. We all are concerned about our tax dollars, roads, & schools. But as 1Townie mentions -the pool is already here. It is one of the rare structures that benefits us all - from the youngest to our most senior. We have already established that the majority want to keep the pool despite the fact that it is a financial drain. We have the opportunity to find out if it could be a financial benefit. I understand the concerns of seniors on fixed incomes. Park and Rec should offer a summer only rate for those who don't have the means or desire to swim all year. We should increase the rate a bit for non-residents. I heard many seniors express how important the pool is ti them. It offers them an affordable "staycation" in the summer. If enclosed, it could offer year-round health and social benefits without the danger of breaking a hip walking on the icy sidewalk for exercise. The last point I would like to make is the benefit to local businesses an indoor pool would bring. When my kids swam at the Granby Y, I did most of my errands, shopping, and take-out dinners in Granby and Simsbury. Now that my kids swim in West Hartford and Farmington, these neighborhoods get my shopping, dining, and tax dollars. I'd love to see that stay in Canton. Let's do the study and see what our options are. There is too much interest and too much potential to let this pass without trying.
Asa Briggs February 03, 2013 at 02:25 PM
I am for a study to investigate if the year round pool facility is a viable option. it could potentially benefit all residents including families with children and seniors. we presently travel out of canton to use facilities in other towns.
Sarah Faulkner February 03, 2013 at 06:32 PM
I support the study. Having the pool open year-round offers more opportunties for adults and seniors, as well as supports school physical ed. I'm amazed at the anti-pool study comments from seniors -- water therapy is one of the very best exercises for seniors. We have no such facilities even close to here, now -- I think, if the study indicates it is worthwhile -- that covering our existing pool in Town will make it a better facility for more of our residents, and add value for the seniors especially.
Colin Giblin February 03, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Let me start by saying that I am extremely disappointed at all the negative comments. As the parent of two swimmers I drive to granby right now and it sucks. I would love to see the fesibility study done and see the pool covered by next winter if possible. Those of you who think this can wait are mistaken. Any work done to fix the pool this year will only be negated by the coming winters if something is not done to protect the repairs. The cover is essential to providing the protection the pool needs and in transforming it to a year round facility that brings in revenue instead of being a drain on the town. Colin Giblin

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