|By Chris Maza|
EAST LONGMEADOW – Among the warrant articles at the Oct. 7 Special Town Meeting will be a request from the Recreation Department to utilize an additional $350,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to rebuild the pool at the Pine Knoll Recreation Area.
Residents voted at the Oct. 1, 2012 Special Town Meeting to allow the town to spend up to $450,000 in CPA monies to replace the pool. The $450,000 figure was requested in response to a budget created by Nationwide Aquatic Consulting, who was brought in by the town to assess the needs and costs.
However, only one contractor submitted a bid in early January in response to the town’s Request for Qualifications of $750,000.
“We made the decision to hire a professional to come in to look at the pool, do the measurements, and create a budget for the town. We got the budget, went to special town meeting, got the [funding] and then found out from engineer No. 2 that the budget is to small,” Recreation Director Colin Drury told the Board of Selectmen at its Aug. 20 meeting.
All three selectmen commented that the amount needed to supplement the original funding figure was extremely high, but Drury said it was necessary.
“It doesn’t change the need. It really is the centerpiece of the program for this town and it is a program that around 1,500 children from the town of East Longmeadow alone go to and utilize the services of that camp,” he said.
Drury said that replacement of the pool would save the town money in the long run.
“As you know, last year we looked at the pool in its current state and the amount of money that was going into it was kind of a big waste. It’s an old pool [that is] falling apart,” he said.
At the 2012 Special Town Meeting, Drury said the pool is constantly refilled as it loses approximately 4,000 gallons of water a day, which increases other expenses in addition to the water bill.
“This year alone, our chemicals that we had to put in the pool doubled again from the previous year,” he said. “It is getting worse. It is leaking water that we then have to re-chlorinate to keep it safe for all the kids and it’s a strong effort every single day to keep the pool in its correct form. It is a pool that’s on its way out.”
In addition to losing thousands of gallons of water, the pool is in violation of the Pool SAFE Act as it does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines that require all public pools have two handicap entrances.
The proposed new pool would be L-shaped with a beach entry, which qualifies as a handicap accessible entrance, and a handicap lift.
Based on the proposed designs, a solar-powered heating system would also be added, allowing the Recreation Department to extend the pool season, opening around Memorial Day and thereby lengthening the season from two months to four months.
Town Administrator Nick Breault said he was not sure whether the Community Preservation Commission had reviewed the warrant article or made a determination on whether it would recommend it.
George Kingston from the CPC told Reminder Publications it had not been reviewed.
Addressing municipal building space, Board of Selectmen Chair Paul Federici said the town is looking into purchasing a building that was recently put up for sale as opposed to attempting to alter the current town hall to alleviate space issues.
“I won’t name the building, but there is a building for sale in town at a very reasonable price with the potential of 9,600 square feet, which according to several people would be perfect,” he said. “The cost of the building, plus retrofitting it for the town and a few other items would cost about as much, if not a tiny bit more than the 2,000 square foot rehabilitation of this office and moving the [Information Technology] Department down to Shaker Road.”
Federici admitted that he wished the building had been put up for sale four months earlier because it would have saved the town nearly $30,000 in expenses related to the municipal space study conducted by Reinhardt Associates of Agawam earlier this year, however, the building would suit the needs of the municipal government.
“I don’t want to put the proverbial cart before the horse, but it does fit our town needs perfectly and would be a wonderful solution to the problems,” he said, adding that it was pointed out at a public forum that another study conducted in 2000 said the municipal offices would need 7,000 square feet to operate properly and a 9,600 square-foot space would address the current needs and allow for expansion if needed.
Selectman Angela Thorpe said she wished to add a bylaw that would be voted on at the Special Town Meeting to address nuisance properties in town.
“Unfortunately, we have had problems with overgrown grass due to foreclosures and so what I’m looking to do is have a warrant article that would allow us to have a service of some sort that would mow the grass and then put a municipal lien on the property,” she said. “That way it wouldn’t be an eyesore to our town.”
Federici lauded the idea, saying he regularly passes one such home on Chestnut Street that he “would be embarrassed to live next to it.” He added it is difficult to communicate with larger banks, such as Bank of America, regarding the issue, saying, “You might as well talk to that chair.”
Thorpe also pointed out that in addition to being an eyesore, there are health concerns that can arise as a result of properties that are not kept up.
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