Mills Pond Pool may not have been on the table but at recent Board of Finance meeting several residents still spoke in favor of adding funding for it to the November ballot.
The boards of Selectmen and Finance met last week to discuss projects the town has proposed for bonding. Voters will get their say at the polls Nov. 6. (See related story.)
While the pool will not be on the ballot, at the finance board meeting several residents took the opportunity to try a last effort to get it added. Numerous residents also spoke up at a joint Board of Selectmen/Board of Finance meeting on Aug. 20.
Robert D. Miller, the one who had started an online "petition," spoke for several minutes about the facility at the Board of Finance meeting last week. With an aging structure, low interest rates and community involvement, the time was right to invest in the facility, Miller said.
“The pool is a tremendous asset that asset has really blossomed over the past three years,” Miller said.
Miller, a past economic development commissioner for the state of Vermont, said it’s another important piece for recreation, property values and economic development.
“Community assets create livable communities that people want to live in,” Miller said, adding that the pool in its current state does not attract the crowds that it could.
Other residents spoke out as well but later in the meeting finance board chairman Richard Ohanesian the project was not one the board even had the ability to consider that night.
“The Board of Finance doesn’t add projects,” Ohanesian said.
Last year and early this year, a Capital Projects Study committee, with members from the boards of selectmen and education, as well as community representatives, met to prioritize the town’s needs and recommended four projects for November bonding.
Subsequently, the school board and selectmen recommended vote to move the recommendations forward and on Aug. 20 selectmen officially referred them to the Board of Finance.
While the pool was discussed by the capital study group, the consensus was that it was not ready to move forward, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner told Patch earlier this year.
A study on the pool was being conducted at the time but a report was not presented to the Board of Selectmen until March, after the capital projects group released its recommendations.
In the public comment portion of last week's meeting, Economic Development Agency chairman and resident Kevin Jackson acknowledged the public push for the pool came late but argued it deserved “serious consideration.”
Board of Finance member Brian First said the comments from those who signed the petition showed that even those residents weren’t all on the same page. Some thought the pool was closing, some wanted a direct replacement while others mentioned other possible configurations, First said.
“The group of supporters needs to clarify the message,” First said.
The pool study, for example, shows a potential configuration that differs from one large 50-meter area but rather shows a 25-meter rectangular shaped, 6-lane area that is connected to a kind of fan shaped family swimming area. (See attached graphic). It also recommends a splash pad and completely redoing the changing areas.
Others have argued that the pool should remain in its 50-meter pool configuration since such facilities are limited and can be used to hold meets and generate revenue.
First Selectman Richard Barlow has even suggested the possibility of eventually having an indoor pool at the high school and selectman Steve Roberto has said the town should further explore the idea of a private company running the pool.
With various ideas and no developed plans, on Aug. 20 several selectmen said there was not enough information to move forward.
Still, Miller contended officials had a good idea of what’s needed and that the problems are well identified.
In last week’s meeting, finance board member Mary Tomolonius lamented the pool not being included in the bonding in some form.
“I think it’s a shame the pool wasn’t included in this,” she said. “It’s a huge gathering place for people young and old.”
Following the week’s meetings, Miller expressed disappointment that pool funding was not added but said he and others will continue to push for more funding.
“We will continue to (urge) the Board of Selectmen and the town to take its commitment to the pool seriously to ensure its survival and the continued use and enjoyment by the community,” he wrote in an e-mail to Patch. “It's unfortunate that we are forced to take such actions when the pool is an existing asset and responsibility of the town and Board of Selectmen. We have clearly demonstrated widespread support for the pool. We have been thoughtful, respectful, and informative. Unfortunately we have been ignored and dismissed by our town leaders. As of now there remains no credible plan to address the state of disrepair of the pool.”
But selectmen said the pool is not being ignored.
“The board is committed to maintaining the integrity of the pool,” Barlow told Patch late last week.
Barlow feels it was not ready to move forward and added that he respected the capital study group's recommendations and the process.
Barlow also said the short-term recommendations in the pool study were completed and the town is looking at the next phase. Earlier this summer, selectmen said they would likely apply next year for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program Funds for the pool.
Barlow said he also had some additional ideas for pool funding but wanted to discuss them with other selectmen before making them public.
See the pool study here.