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Town Investigates Idea of a Structure Over Mills Pond Pool

That and other changes could potentially extend season, improve financial outlook.

While townspeople should soon have the chance to vote at Town Meeting on $400,000 in proposed funding for Mills Pond Pool, some are investigating ways to potentially convert the facility to year-round use and improve its financial health.

Parks and Recreation Director Brian Wilson and Economic Development Agency member Rob Miller recently attended a USA Swimming-sponsored “Save a Pool, Build a Pool” conference in New Jersey.

The organization has come up with several plans to help towns like Canton, Wilson said. The town is far from alone with its aging pool and many across the country have closed such facilities, he added.

The pool operates at a loss of some $50,000 per year.

Originally USA Swimming representatives had planned to present some of their findings at an Economic Development Agency meeting Thursday but were unable to make it due to the recent weather.

Wilson, however, reviewed many aspects of the pool and benefits of it and other programs but also showcased some potential new approaches. He added that they were just ideas at this point and would need to be researched further. 

One was an “architectural membrane structure,” which would provide a cover bolstered by an aluminum or steel frame.

Compared to an indoor facility at some $6 million, the structures cost roughly $400,000, Wilson said. They come in a variety of shapes and often have covers or other systems that can be taken off in the summer.

“We can have an open-air facility for our summer operation,” Wilson added. “It’s sort of the best of both worlds.”

Wilson acknowledged there was much more research to do before suggesting such a structure for Canton and said they but said they are used in some colder areas, such as New England. While they are no greatly insulated, they are a realistic option, he added.

“Yes it’s not fancy but it serves a purpose,” he said.

Wilson also touched upon a few other ideas. One was a type of “bulkhead” that would divide Canton’s 50-meter facility into two, 25-yard areas, with a small portion in the middle. That would allow scenarios such recreational swimming in one end, a competition in the other and a therapy session in the middle.

“We would lose a 50-meter facility but we would turn one pool into potentially three,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he also learned that temperature, depth and access are three important aspects of the pool. The depth of the pool at the low end, for example, may leave out some kids who find it too deep but are too old for the “kiddie” pool, he said.

A water temperature in the mid 80s, rather than the high 60s to mid 70s could attract more users, he added.

Wilson also discussed other pool issues. Likely later this month residents will have the chance to vote at town meeting whether to transfer $400,000 from the town’s reserve to an account for the pool. The money would be used to replace decking, bring mechanicals above ground and to some repairs to the shell.

Wilson also acknowledged that some further repair would be needed before a cover would be viable.

He also reiterated that the town recently had a pool study done and said it had averaged 398 people per day past this past summer and that it had 1,229 members from 345 households

“We’re committed to having a pool,” Wilson said.

First Selectman Richard Barlow was unable to attend Thursday but he and others heard the presentation earlier in the day.

Barlow said he was not fully convinced that some preliminary cost and revenue estimates her heard were all inclusive but said the idea was very "interesting."

The Park and Recreation commission and Wilson will need to do some further research from here, he said.

“Clearly what the path is going to be is for Brian to work with the Parks and Recreation Commission to work up a sustainable business model,” Barlow said.  

Andrew Ziemba November 09, 2012 at 11:56 AM
It would have made a lot more sense to invest in this than the track, if public funding had to be spent on anything... Sure is surprising that the town is now excited about this project just days after passing a huge borrow and spending package...NOT.
JEFF DILL November 09, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I think its great that additional ideas to keep the pool running are being discussed, but I cannot see this as having a positive net result. When its getting colder, people are generally looking for warmer pools and there are less patrons to capture. I think a better idea would be to increase the reasons to go to Mills Pond. I like the park, but have never gone swimming. Dunkin' anyone?
Joe Sikorski November 09, 2012 at 07:37 PM
This would be a very good idea. Using our money towards a more city-wide project such as improving the pool would be a bit more logical than allotting so much money to a project such as the Track which would solely benefit the school system. Lots of adults as well as kids visit this pool in the summer, and covering it from the sun would be a good way to get people of all ages in without the terror of sunburn. I have been here many times myself, and getting lots of sun is nice. But with so many people visiting per-day, it can get a bit hectic. We all know it's a little uncomfortable when you're soaking up the sun on a fun summer day, closing your eyes, and a bee pops up to say "Hello" in your face. Although we all have a special place for these furry insects in our heart, the pool is not one. Covering it would significantly reduce the amount of insects while swimming, which could also benefit people with allergies who were formerly unable to visit the pool due to this. I also believe that this is no place for financially questionable arguments. It's simply an idea that could benefit lots of people- no matter how much money it would cost. Thank you, and I am thrilled to see others' responses to this idea.
Canton Resident 1993 November 10, 2012 at 12:09 PM
This is a waste of our tax dollars. The track will benefit more than only the students. I don't have children in school anymore, but would love to have a local track to use! The pool and swimming are an outdoor summer sport...it's supposed to be sunny! Typically, a covered pool is a year round heated pool or in places like Florida that has a lot of bugs. I just don't think this is that important to the town of Canton. I'd rather see our town's dollars go towards repairing some of the horrible roads, such as East Hill Rd., and Pine Acres. From all the development up in that area, the roads have been destroyed and neglected for too long. Doesn't seem to matter how many town meetings you attend or phone calls you make; even in small town government the resident's pov doesn't seem to matter.
Rob Miller November 10, 2012 at 06:22 PM
A couple points of clarification. The concept as of now is to enclose the pool in the winter, and take down the enclosure during the summer. That way, we still retain an outdoor facility during the summer. By creating a year round facility, more programs can be run for all ages; which in turn generates enough money to cover the cost to operate the pool. Because the pool is only open a few months during the year, it runs at a $50,000/year deficit; not to mention suffers the wear and tear on the facility every winter. Additionally, there are very few indoor pools in the region for winter use, and they all have more demand than their facilities can supply. There are quite a few people who will use the pool in the winter. This concept proposes to spend some money now in order to save more money over time while creating more health and fitness activities for our residents.

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