Canton leaders discuss fate of pool

By DeeAnna Haney | Feb 11, 2013
Photo by: DeeAnna Haney

During the next year, Canton board members will be forced to decide whether to tear down the longtime outdoor pool or find funding for a new one.

The pool will be patched up yet again this summer, and probably next summer, but town board members are in discussions about what to do with the slowly deteriorating structure.

Built in the late 1940s, the Canton pool has far exceeded the lifespan of a typical outdoor swimming pool. During the past decade, the town has repeatedly patched and painted recurring cracks in order to open each summer.

An engineer from McGill Associates recently presented an evaluation of the costs of repairing or replacing the pool at a town board meeting.

A ground-penetrating radar study last year showed several voids underneath the pool causing leaks. Because of that the town must replace more than half of the volume of the pool because of the daily water during the time it is in operation.

To make effective repairs to the pool, engineers proposed filling the voids with a high-density resin and applying a Marcite coating to the surface — an estimated cost of about $313,000. That price does not even include the cost of addressing the water filtration system.

The option of completely replacing the pool, which would cost about $389,000, was the most popular among the board members.

“It is totally impractical to think that we can repair that pool,” said Town Manager Al Matthews. “It’s a no brainer. You don’t invest that kind of money in something that has a non-guaranteed, short return useful life.”

The suggested replacement pool would be 10 feet narrower and 25-feet shorter than the current pool, which would allow more deck space. It would also be a “zero entry” style pool, which would be a gradual slope to a maximum depth of 5 feet.

That would be a big change from the current pool, which is 12 feet at its deepest. It would also mean there would be no diving board, which would decrease liability for the town.

Although Mayor Mike Ray did not like the idea of losing the diving board, Alderman Jimmy Flynn noted that there have been several injuries on the board.

“I do not want to take away the diving board without replacing it with some type of water facility,” Flynn said, adding that could include a tunnel water slide, flat water spout or a “mushroom fountain” at the kiddie pool.

The town will likely have to finance the project through a loan.

“Grants for swimming pools are almost non-existent,” Matthews said. “The town is eligible to receive grants, but only a fraction of those requests are ever funded.”

That’s because funding requests for other popular recreational activities are often chosen for grants, he added.

The board is going to use the next 12 months to continue discussion on the project with the intention of finding the funds to build a new pool in 2015.

Until then, they will continue to "put a Band-Aid" on the pool, to use Matthews' term. Doing so will not be a danger to the public, but it will only continue to be a drain on the town's account.

"It is safe. It is not practical," Matthews said. "It's terribly expensive to operate the pool."

The town currently spends more on pool operations than revenue. Last season, ticket and concession sales brought in about $55,000, Matthews said. But pool operation each year costs about $150,000.

"So it's quite obvious that the pool is an amenity for the citizens and is not a revenue source for the town," Matthews said.

And each year the pool must be patched up means an added expense of about $2,000 to $5,000 in materials, such as paint, caulk and concrete, and about $2,500 of in-house labor.

The board agreed that it would like to see some type of water recreation facility even if they do not choose a pool, but no decisions have been made. The main goal is finding the most cost-effective option for the town.

"I will only do it when we have secured funding without a tax increase or risk of losing current services to tax payers," Flynn said.

Aldermen Patrick Willis and Ed Underwood said that as discussions continue, they would like to have a public forum to hear what residents would like to see replace the pool.