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Editorial: Take the plunge, Hartford

Published: 2/28/2020 10:10:14 PM
Modified: 2/28/2020 10:10:09 PM

This year’s Town Meeting warning makes many claims on the attention and tax dollars of Hartford residents. We hope that among the articles that find favor is borrowing $3.3 million to replace the shuttered 52-year-old Sherman Manning Pools on the Hartford High School campus.

To be sure, that’s a lot of money. It is estimated that debt service combined with operating costs would add $50 to the annual tax bill of a property valued at $250,000; taxpayers must decide according to their individual circumstances whether that is reasonable.

If they conclude it is, we recommend they support construction of the new pool, which would again provide residents with an accessible, affordable and safe outdoor swimming destination open to all, something that was desired by a healthy majority of those responding to surveys conducted by the committee that developed the proposal.

At the same time, said Hilde Ojibway, chairwoman of the Pool Advisory Committee, the surveys indicated that “nobody wanted anything fancy.” Thus the design focuses on practicality over beauty, staff writer Anna Merriman reported last month.

The plan calls for a single pool with a maximum 8-foot depth, with four 75-foot lap lanes and water features for children to play in. It includes deck structures to provide shade, pool deck furniture and a slide into the pool. A new entry structure to control access would house two family changing rooms with bathrooms that would extend the swimming season when the toilets and showers in the adjacent field house become unavailable as school resumes. And by utilizing the footprint and infrastructure of the existing pool, the plan saves on demolition costs and earth moving.

We are also impressed with the apparent thoroughness of the process used to develop this proposal, something that has not always been a hallmark of Hartford’s infrastructure projects. Last March, the taxpayers wisely invested $70,000 in preliminary design and engineering studies intended to arrive at accurate cost estimates for construction, architectural and engineering services, and miscellaneous expenses such as permitting and surveying. That should help minimize the possibility that unpleasant surprises will be encountered as the building process unfolds.

The pool committee also describes the new pool as “durable,” which is an important consideration. Over the years, the town’s infrastructure has sometimes suffered from lack of timely maintenance, and if voters support this proposal, they should demand that it not be allowed to deteriorate through inattention.

There’s no question that a new pool is an amenity rather than a necessity. But it is one that would neatly complement the excellent recreation facilities at the town’s new Maxfield Outdoor Sports Complex, providing opportunities perhaps for a different group of users and another attraction for young families considering making Hartford their home. And at a time when too many children spend far too much time engrossed in their electronic devices and far too little time exercising outdoors, the attraction of getting into the water on a warm sunny day should not be underestimated, especially in the safe environment provided by lifeguards and perimeter fencing.

Moreover, a new pool would provide a centrally located place where an increasingly diverse town population could meet and interact for recreation, socialization and relaxation, building and strengthening community ties in the process. Which is something sorely needed in Hartford, as elsewhere.

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