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.