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Resident Raises Doubts About City Pool Closing

Claremont — A request by a resident at last night’s City Council meeting to allow him to pay for an independent assessment of the condition of the city’s shuttered outdoor pool and obtain cost estimates to repair it, set off a lengthy discussion by the council on whether it actually voted to demolish the structure.

Jeff Barrette told the council he was aware of the huge amounts of water being lost from leaks and the $800,000 estimated repair costs, but remained skeptical.

“I’m not pointing fingers but I really don’t believe them,” Barrette, a local business owner and county commissioner, said. “I think it needs a second look.

“I don’t believe the data and I’ll do it (assessment) on my own dime.”

The pool was closed during both the 2012 and 2011 seasons, and according to figures provided by the Parks and Recreation Department, more than 5 million gallons were needed to keep the 270,000 gallon pool filled. The leaks were caused by a severely deteriorated gutter system, according to Parks and Recreation.

Barrette said that sort of water loss would make it impossible to grow grass around the pool at Veterans Park.

“The whole building would have floated away.”

Though the council did not act upon Barrette’s request, it did discuss at length the council minutes in the spring and summer of 2012 on the outdoor pool after Finance Director Mary Walter quickly provided copies.

Walter reminded the council that $50,000 was put in the current six-month supplemental parks department budget last November for demolition of the pool and the council approved it. She said six bids were received and the company with the low bid of $23,000 was awarded the job, but no contract has been signed. A date has not been set for demolition, said Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hausler.

At the end of the discussion, Mayor James Neilsen asked City Manager Guy Santagate to talk with the contractor and see if they would be willing to wait until the council can place the demolition issue on next month’s agenda. If not, Neilsen said the council could hold a special meeting.

Councilor Chris Irish was the most vocal about whether the council voted to demolish the pool.

“I don’t ever recall ever saying we are going to get prices and do it,” Irish said.

Irish referred several times to a May 9, 2012, motion to close the pool and obtain costs for removal, pointing out that it did not say demolish. He said it is clear from the minutes that the council wanted to see the numbers and have a broader discussion on how to proceed.

“We never got information before the bids went out,” he said.“I want to have a conversation on how to demolish it.”

Councilor Nick Koloski also referred to the minutes where he said he would vote for the May 9 motion if it didn’t include demolition.

But councilors Vic Bergeron and Tom Burnham were just as adamant about the council’s intent to close and demolish the pool. Burnham in fact tried to make a motion to allow the city to proceed with the contract signing but was not able to because the issue was not an agenda item but instead came up under Citizen’s Forum.

“Let them demolish it. It is a known fact that thing needs to be demolished,” Burnham said.

Bergeron said no one objected at a public hearing on the issue and his feeling is that the pool was to be demolished when the new community center opened.

“We agreed to put $50,000 in the budget to demolish it,” he said.

Though the May 9 motion did not use the term demolish, Mayor Neilsen believes that is what councilors intended.

Even if it could be repaired for $100,000, he said, that does not include money to staff and maintain it and there is no money in the budget.

“At this late stage, how do you back up,” Neilsen asked.

Hausler said the contract calls for tearing out the pool, filling in the space and landscaping the surface as well as removal of the building.

He stands by the water loss numbers and cost estimates for repairs that were presented to the council in the spring of 2012.

“The water department can vouch for the meter readings,” he said, adding that the problems have been building up for years but money for repairs was always cut from the budget.

Barrette said after the meeting he will start a Facebook page urging people to support his request and may try to circulate a petition.

“Once a resource like an outdoor pool is gone, it is not easily brought back,” he told the council.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.