Noting projected costs,
location and other impacts, the Canton Parks and Recreation Department on
Monday night voted against moving forward with an idea to turn Mills Pond Pool
into a year-round operation.
The commission voted for the following motion: "Based on the study provided by Mythic Sports Group, enclosing the pool and operating a year round operation is not feasible based on the construction costs, operational costs, location, and impact concerns to the park and vicinity."
Rebecca Andrews, Julius Fialkiewicz, Ben Holden and Todd Jacobs unanimously voted for the motion. Christopher Eckert was absent.
The $10,500 Mythic Sports feasibility study laid out three options for enclosing the pool with start-up costs ranging from $1.9 million to $4.4 million.
Those options, with initial construction estimates, included:
- Option A — Cover, repair and heat the existing pool ($1.9 million in initial construction)
- Option B — Cover and construct a permanent bulkhead separating pool into two separate and distinct program areas. An alternate scenario included a zero entrance area for three programming spaces ($2.5-$2.7 million)
- Option C — Cover and remove and replace existing pool with new 50 meter by 25-yard training and competition facility and add teaching facility separately ($4.4 million)
In year 3, the report projected options B and C could be profitable from an operational standpoint but only the latter was projected to be so when factoring in construction costs. According to the consultant's numbers, options A and B would have greater losses (with construction factored in) in year three than the approximate $50,000 "loss" the facility currently experiences.
Andrews, who chairs the commission, said the group considered the information carefully and each member was able to review the final draft before the special meeting Monday night.
While some scenarios showed the possibility of a sustainable operation, commissioners said they were concerned with the need to invest millions and questioned the revenue projections, such as whether the facility could draw from as large an area as suggested, whether some projected events would be as large as estimated and whether the park could sustain the size and number of events projected.
Andrews said there would also be related facility improvement costs that weren't in the study.
"The fiscal feasibility didn't seem to add up for us," Andrews said.
And in addition to many of the initial costs, commission members were concerned that Mills Pond could not support such an expanded facility.
Andrews said Mills Pond Park and the surrounding area could not handle some of the larger events suggested for revenue. Those issues include parking, the condition of East Hill Road and access from Route 44, Andrews said.
Rob Miller, a resident who has been very active in seeking pool improvements, said he feels the report does lay out some scenarios for successful enclosure. He also feels the commission should have sought more input after the report was completed.
Miller feels the conclusion (on page 74) sums up the viability of the second option — "Dividing the existing pool into two separate bodies of water with varying temperature, access and depth is the most programmatic and economic viable option for the municipality in the future. Enclosing the two pool complex to allow for year-round community access to aquatic health and wellness programs, training, education and recreational use and can support approximately 52% of capital construction cost and 100% of the operations and maintenance costs . . . "
"Clearly I am disappointed," Miller wrote to Patch. "Based on the report, it was clear that there was an opportunity to enclose the pool; expand services to Canton residents; and put the pool on a path toward financial sustainability. It's also disappointing that the commission did not hold a public forum to present the results and recommendations from the report and solicit community feedback before deciding how to proceed; especially when you consider that it was the public that forced the town to conduct the study in the first place."
That push for the study, which cost
$10,500, was somewhat controversial. In January, then parks commissioner Frank
Culkin, who has since moved out of town, appeared before the Board of Selectmen
urging them to fund a study, based on his preliminary “Mills Pond Pool
Revitalization Venture” report. The parks commission had not voted to move
the idea forward and selectmen declined to take action.
However, residents then petitioned and successfully voted at town meeting to use existing capital improvement funds for the pay for it.
Andrews said she does feel the study was worthwhile in giving the town some answers.
See the entire study here.
On Tuesday, Wilson emphasized that the Parks commission remains committed to the pool.
interested really in continuing to see the existing pool renovated and improved
upon," Wilson said.
Currently the town is working on gathering a second set of bids for the $400,000 set aside for improvements. In an action separate from the study, those funds were taken from town reserves. The first round of bids came in over $500,000.
The scope was scaled back but the town is still looking to replace decking around the large pool, demolish the existing filtration and pump system and construct a safer, more modern pump/filtration building adjacent to pool.
Contractors have until Oct. 10 to submit bids for the work.
Andrews also said the town does need to come up with a long-term plan for the facility.
Miller said it's a process he plans to follow.
I will be interested to see what ideas the parks and recreation commission has to ensure the financial viability of the pool, and its ultimate replacement, so that Canton residents do not loose this important community asset," Miller said.