Westmoreland residents speak out in favor of pool at town meeting

Published Nov 14, 2017 at 1:00pm

WESTMORELAND — Members of the Westmoreland Summer Activities Association (WSAA) and several town residents spoke out against the closing of the town pool at Monday’s Town Council meeting.

But while the pool has been closed for two summers, town officials said there are concerns that the community organization won’t be able to meet funding to keep it operational.

The pool is owned by the town and leased to the Westmoreland Summer Activities Association, a non-profit organization which has worked for more than two years and has raised over $60,000 toward the goal of reopening the pool, said WSAA President Scott Tarkowski.

After scheduled fund-raising efforts are completed this winter, the association anticipated reopening the pool in the spring of 2018, he said.

Meanwhile, the town council has requested that WSAA pay an additional $3,000 annually to offset insurance costs on the property, although the association already is paying the fee annually for its own insurance, Tarkowski said.

“This extra expense may make it impossible for the Westmoreland Summer Activities Association to continue operating even though they’ve made such tremendous progress, and are so extremely close to reaching their goal,” he said.

The WSAA is working to restore and reopen the Anna Newman Kunz Memorial Town Pool so that residents, particularly the children of Westmoreland, have a safe place to swim, Tarkowski said. It also serves as a gathering place for community activities in the summer.

More than 50 years ago, residents formed the Westmoreland Community Recreation group and the Anna Kunz family donated land for the town pool. An FHA mortgage for about $30,000 was then obtained to build it.

The organization ran the pool until 2002 with the help of Westmoreland Central School, the town, fund-raisers, donations, admissions and with the assistance of the Kunz family. Since the pool closed in 2015, the town also offered to pay for swim lessons at Clinton pool or the Rome Family YMCA, said Town Councilman Hubert Pritchard.

“Forced with a mortgage foreclosure, the town paid the mortgage and owns the pool, and continued with Westmoreland Community Recreation running it,” Pritchard said. “Aging infrastructure, lower attendance, backyard pools and rising utilities forced closing the pool after the town spent nearly $100,000 in 12 years. After being closed for one year, the town board voted to demolish it.”

Since WSAA formed, Pritchard said the new group of citizens wanted a chance to save the pool and the town council voted on a year-to-year basis. Currently the board is considering either a short-term or long-term lease to WSAA for the pool, the councilman said. He said WSAA’s lease on the pool had expired in July.

“The pool has been closed two more summers and is still costing the town about $3,000 per year for insurance, etc.,” Pritchard said. “The new group has received $54,205 in revenue and spent $42,003 with much work to be completed. I believe the board has concerns about operating expenses being met if the pool is open.”

He said, “they (WSAA) have not given us an operating budget” for the next year, “and they have spent quite a bit of money” on renovations.

Pritchard said according to the 2016 budget, the town spent $9,000 on the town park, $6,500 on youth programs, $3,250 on senior programs and $3,100 for insurance and utilities on the pool.