Voters approve upgrades to Pine Knoll Recreation Area
|By Chris Maza|
EAST LONGMEADOW The Pine Knoll Recreation Area will get a much-needed pool upgrade, thanks to the approval of residents at the Oct. 1 Special Town Meeting.
By a majority vote, the town decided to spend up to $450,000 to fund the building of a new swimming pool due to functional and legal problems facing the pool.
The project will be initially funded by an interest-only loan that may be converted to a bond if approved at the Annual Town Meeting in 2013.
Both the loan and the bond will be paid off using Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds, including future CPA revenues.
Colin Drury, recreation director, explained that because of changes to the CPA made the pool an accepted use of the monies.
George Kingston of the Community Preservation Committee, who said the committee recommended the article as a bonding, told Reminder Publications that the recommendation was made based on the probably of the town's need to spend additional CPA money on other projects come the 2013 Annual Town Meeting, and those costs would be combined into a single bond issue.
Drury explained that the pool would not be useable in its current condition under the Pool SAFE Act, which would require every public pool to be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
All public pools, he said, would require two handicap accessible entry points next year after an extension was granted by the federal government this past year.
He also stated that the pool's age has presented mechanical and structural problems for the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Recreation Department.
"[The pool] is 57 years old and constantly we ask the DPW to fix many parts of it and put in, for lack of a better term, Band-Aids on the pool to keep it going for us," Drury said, adding that it cost the DPW 400 man-hours to correct problems.
"The pool loses about 4,000 gallons of water per day. The typical loss for a pool is 281 gallons," Drury said. "So last year we lost about 300,000 gallons of water from the pool and that's from minute cracks that are in the system, whether it be in the pool system or the filtering system."
The plans developed for the new pool presented to the town showed that the project, when completed, would result in an L-shaped pool with a beach entry, which would require only one other handicap accessible entry point, which would be a handicap lift.
Drury added that the new pool would allow the Recreation Department to extend the pool season with a solar-powered heating system, allowing the pool to open around Memorial Day to lengthening the season from two months to four months.
Nationwide Aquatic Consulting created budget for project that stated it could cost between approximately $350,000 and $450,000 to complete, including up to $100,000 for demolition costs. Drury explained that the high number for demolition costs was due to the pool's age and therefore the risk of hazardous materials.
Residents also approved an expenditure of up to $30,000 for a space study to be conducted on all non-school municipal buildings, including Town Hall.
Board of Selectmen Chair James Driscoll explained that the study would determine the space needs of each municipal department in order to develop a plan to streamline efficiency in town hall.
He said adding that Town Hall has both space and disability accessibility issues that need to be addressed.
"We have had a space issue, particularly at our town hall, for as many of the nine years as I have served on this board and it has gotten worse, not better. It's a very tight situation both from workers' perspective, but also from our town citizens coming in and getting to the audience they need to get to appropriately," Driscoll said.
Russell Denver, chair of the Appropriations Committee, which recommended the article, stated that in the past, three different department heads have approached his committee about space issues.
Residents voted down another $30,000 expenditure that would have allowed for a study regarding salaries of non-unionized department heads.
Denver explained that the study would help the town establish a floor and a ceiling for salaries for those employees that the Board of Selectmen could use in their negotiations to decide what a fair and equitable contract would be.
The results of the findings would have been be updated annually to maintain accuracy, Driscoll added.
There are approximately 20 non-unionized department heads employed by East Longmeadow.