Friday, April 3, 2015

To Pool or Not to Pool, That Was the Question

About 30 people showed up to participate in Thursday night's discussion about opening the township pool.

Township commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday night to open the township pool on June 13.

About 30 people attended the meeting and some spoke in favor of opening the pool and others said the township could not afford it.

It is the second time the commissioners have voted on the matter, but this time the result was the opposite of the first vote, when a 2-1 vote was to close the pool.

And like the first time, on March 16, two commissioners were absent.

Commissioner Rock D’Emilio was not at either meeting and commissioners Charles Valentine and Thomas Palladino were at both meetings.

The variance between the two meetings is Commissioner Steve Miller, who voted to close the pool last month; and Commissioners President Pete LaRosa, who missed the March 16 meeting to watch over a dying relative, but who voted in favor of opening the pool Thursday night.

In fact, the vote Thursday night was a result of LaRosa’s advocacy for opening the pool and he
scheduled the special meeting to re-consider the matter.

The matter revolved entirely around money.

Palladino said he was a cheerleader for purchasing the pool in 2010. “I thought it was a great idea,” he said.

But since then, the pool has lost money every year. “It’s an economic nightmare.”

Since it was purchased, the township has spent $914,932.98 on the pool, Palladino said.

Proponents of the pool, did not dispute the amount spent.

“There’s nothing we can do about that now,” said LaRosa.

Rather, they argued that the contract they approved last night would help to turn the corner on the pool’s finances.

The contract with Bennington Pool Services will cost taxpayers $32,759, although company resident Matt McMaster told the board that his company would pay for chemicals and pay to open and close the pool, which is a cost of about $10,000.

The snack bar will be run, and the profit earned kept, by the Pottsgrove Little League under the plan.

Bennington will provide lifeguards and marketing through social media and the township will spend $4,900 to have a township employee watch the gate, under the plan approved.

“The best thing we ever did was buy the pool,” said LaRosa. “The worst thing we ever did was try to run the pool.”

But as far as Michelle Kazmierczak is concerned, the worst thing the commissioners may have done is reconsider the decision to close the pool.

Kazmierczak was among the most vocal opponents of re-opening the pool.

“We’re not even close to breaking even on the pool,” she said. “Is it fiscally responsible to keep doing this? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Lorraine Antonio said she is a lifelong township resident and said she enjoyed the pool when it was the privately run Colonial Pool Club.

“But I can’t afford the taxes now,” she said. “We have to watch what we’re doing here or this pool will bankrupt the township.”

Scott Allen from East Coventry, said he used the pool and found it “very clean and modern looking. I was impressed. I was thinking of joining this year.”

Stowe resident Colleen Sullivan said the pool is “a great place for families and kids.”

Looking at some of the older residents who said they enjoyed the pool but can no longer afford tax increase, Sullivan said “the families who live here now want to make the same kind of memories you made with your children.”

The problem, said Palladino, is that West Pottsgrove’s population is “70 percent senior citizens” and that demographic is not enough to support the pool.

Which is why, LaRosa said, the pool needs to be marketed to those outside town.

McMaster said that could be done by offering extras, such as yoga, “mommie and me” swim classes and coffee and cards events geared toward seniors.

“I want to do whatever I can to make this work over the long-term,” McMaster said.

(My Twitter feed, always slow in this township building, gave up the ghost about halfway through the meeting, so here are the Tweets that made it into the Twitterverse before I had to go old school and pull out a pen.)

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