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Hartford places $3.4 million pool proposal on Town Meeting warning

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2020 10:18:47 PM
Modified: 1/13/2020 10:18:01 PM

HARTFORD — Residents at Town Meeting will be asked to vote for a $3.4 million community pool that would bring splash pads, a slide and a lap area to replace the 52-year-old Sherman Manning Pools.

“You can be hopeful about swimming outside again,” Hilde Ojibway said to a group of around 50 attendees at an informational meeting in Hartford on Monday. Though, she added, the design of the pool is going to focus on practicality over beauty.

“Nobody wanted anything fancy,” said Ojibway, who was the chairwoman of the Pool Advisory Committee, regarding the general feedback residents have given the town over the past year. “They were saying ‘just fix the pool.’ ”

The Selectboard chose the pool proposal during a work session last week.

The plan includes a single pool with four 75-foot lap lanes and water features for children to play with. There’s also an 800-square-foot “bathhouse” at the front of the pool that has two bathrooms and serves as an entry point for the community.

The plan was one of two options brought forth by Boston-based architect Thomas Scarlata at the work session last week, with the other option offering two attached pools and a splash area. The board also chose to make the pool 8 feet deep, rather than 5 feet, upping the costs by about $200,000.

Construction of the pool complex would be covered by the $3.3 million bond, if it passes at the March 3 Town Meeting.

But the costs of many of the proposals Selectboard members examined last week were slightly above that number. The cheapest pool plan — a single pool with a five-foot deep end — would cost just shy of $3.4 million, while the priciest plan — a double pool with an 8-foot depth — clocked in at nearly $3.7 million.

All of the estimates included the cost of construction, architects and engineers, and other various “soft costs,” like permitting and surveying.

Though the option they settled on is on the less expensive end, some Selectboard members still had questions, like Jameson Davis, who asked why the bathhouse will cost $248,000 to build.

“There’s no line item here for me to know where the majority of the money is spent,” he said.

Scarlata said the cost associated with the bathhouse will go almost entirely to constructing the structure itself. He also assured board members that they’re saving money in other areas, particularly by building in the original site of the Sherman Manning Pools, rather than demolishing the previous structure. The previous pool closed two summers ago after Selectboard members learned necessary repairs would cost around $320,000.

“We’re using the structure that’s there, which saves on demolition and earth work,” Scarlata said

On a smaller scale, they also plan to cut costs by having water features that turn on with a touch, meaning they’re not constantly running — and not constantly wasting — water.

Scott Hausler director of Hartford Parks & Recreation, pushed for the single pool, 8-foot-depth option, saying that it includes important draws for the community, like the splash area with water features and the bathhouse entry structure. The pool would go in on the Hartford High School campus, meaning that normally, the swim season would be limited to the summer, when school isn’t in session. The bathhouse gets around that restriction.

“The option of the control entry with a couple of bathrooms allows us to extend our season,” he said. Plus, Hausler added, the plan “fits pretty close within the budget.”

Some members of the Selectboard questioned aspects of the pool’s design. Selectboard Vice Chairman Richard Grassi asked whether a diving board might draw more users.

“It would draw older kids,” said Scarlata, but he called a diving board a liability concern, adding that the town would need to hire more lifeguards. “It ties up staff.”

During a Q&A session Monday, some residents raised concerns about costs.

“To spend $3.3 million on a pool … That’s a lot of money,” Tim Tudo said.

Lannie Collins, a Quechee man who spoke at the meeting, asked why the bathhouse costs so much, especially when it’s pricier than many homes in the area.

“This strikes me as an extremely outrageous price to pay for a bathhouse,” Collins said. “We don’t need gilded showers.”

Ojibway assured attendees that the breakdown of the bond would come out to an additional $40 to $50 a year for residents who live in a $300,000 home. But, Tudo countered, that’s just one of many taxes residents have to pay.

“What we Vermonters need to understand is that when you start piling all these things up, you start to lose people,” he said.

The board also discussed other items on the warning, including the Welcoming Hartford Ordinance, which would govern communication between town employees and federal immigration authorities. Another issue was the climate action initiative, which looked at making Hartford carbon neutral by 2027.

A final discussion focused on a proposed TIF bond, which would put money toward infrastructure improvements like surface parking on South Main Street and sidewalk repairs.

Anna Merriman can be reached at 603-727-3216 or amerriman@vnews.com.

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