HAMPSTEAD — The town pool is making waves at council meetings these days -- withone resident arguing it's a liability, and a councilwoman saying it could be an asset.
Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt was particularly irked at the council's January meeting when North Carroll Farms resident Myron H. Diehl Jr. said of the pool: "I think you should fill it up with dirt and plant trees in it."
Hyatt, meanwhile, says she thinks she can sell enough pool memberships to pay for opening a second pool, as Manchester has.
This week, Diehl conceded the dirt idea might not be so great. But he would like to see the town sell or even give away the pool instead of put money into fixing it.
"The liability concerns me very much," Diehl said. If someone drowns, gets burned by chemicals or otherwise hurt, he said, "The whole town's liable."
The town has a $1 million general liability insurance policy with a rider for an additional $2 million. Diehl doubts it's enough for a pool.
"It's an apartment-sizedpool serving an apartment-sized community," Diehl said. "I don't like the idea of the town residents subsidizing the minority."
Said Hyatt, "That's snobby."
A growing population and a need for family activities that don't cost much have inspired Hyatt to plunge into the pool duty assigned her by the mayor. Each council member gets certain areas and pet projects to coordinate.
The pool originally was part of the Hampstead Valley development and was purchased by the townin 1986.
This will be the first year it opens by Memorial Day, said Hyatt, who adds she has been promoting it more than anyone has previously.
Hyatt, also owner of Hyatt's Animal Boutique on Main Street for the past 16 years, said the pool can be a self-supporting enterprise. But she wants a safety net in the town budget, even if the money doesn't have to be spent.
Although she had no firm figure yet,she said she will ask for less than the $10,000 approved by the council last spring.
She has hired a pool manager and arranged for repairs that fall within the $10,000. Her plan is to have pool memberships pay for the staff and chemicals, and eventually also for all repairs and maintenance.
While Diehl said expected budget cuts in the coming year should rule out frills such as a pool, Hyatt argues that during tough economic times, families need low-cost recreation.
"I think the pool is even more worthwhile than in the beginning," she said.
The town pool family memberships will go for $150, compared totwice as much at private clubs such as Four Seasons Sports and Fitness Complex.
Hyatt said she knows she can sell at least 100 memberships, which will raise the $15,000 needed for salaries and chemicals.She is shooting for 200 memberships, and offering swimming lessons and water aerobics for an additional charge. Staff members are Red Cross trained, she said.
Last year, the town sold about 75 memberships, she said, and that was with the typical late opening some time in June.
"A hundred families will be a piece of cake," she said.
With all their disagreement over the pool, Hyatt and Diehl have one thing in common -- neither has ever swum in it.
Diehl said he has nodesire to go because friends of his who have complained it was small, dirty and crowded.
Hyatt raised her children on a farm with a pond.
"I don't swim," Hyatt said.