Swimming pool, in debt, mulls options

Part of nonprofit facility could shut in mid-summer

Manchester

February 18, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Manchester's swimming pool complex will open this summer, but one adult pool might be shut down in mid-summer if bad weather again precipitates declining season memberships, officials said.

The Lineboro-Manchester Lions Club Pool had to borrow about $17,000 to pay last summer's operating expenses, said Henry J. Hirsch, the pool committee chairman for the past eight years. The Lions Club operates the pool as a nonprofit venture.

"We had a lot of rain and cool weather - like all the other outdoor pools," said Hirsch. He said he believes that the cold spring probably helped some members decide to pay daily admissions rather than renew their season memberships.

"Last season was probably the worst season a lot of guys can remember - and some have been here since it opened," he said of the facility, whose cornerstone was laid in 1958. "It kind of puts us in a little pickle," said Hirsch.

His concern has been heightened by the decisions last month not to reopen the community pools in Taneytown and Hampstead, Hirsch said.

The Taneytown swimming pool closed in mid-August when a dispute arose with the management company. It was later declared unsafe by a Carroll County inspector. Mayor W. Robert Flickinger said the 1965 pool and bathhouse would need hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs.

While the dollar figure hasn't been established yet, a committee in Taneytown has been working since September to reopen the pool, perhaps by summer 2005, said Terri L. Tarbert, the committee president and a pool member who was unaware of its plight until it was too late.

"It seems like the community pool is a dying breed," she said.

Her group has established a nonprofit Taneytown Community Pool Fund through the Community Foundation of Carroll County Inc., obtained local support from local businesses and is planning fund-raising activities.

Soon after the announcement that the Taneytown pool would remain closed, the Hampstead Town Council decided not to spend about $150,000 for repairs to a foundation wall necessary to open its pool this summer, said Town Manager Ken Decker. It also has a citizens committee working to reopen the pool, which has about 100 family memberships.

"We're going to put it in mothballs to try to keep the option open," Decker said. "We can always hope for a wealthy benefactor."

In Manchester, Mayor Christopher B. D'Amario said he was unaware of problems at the pool but would look into it.

"I'm flabbergasted to think they went that much in the hole," he said. "It's just a darned shame."

Because the Lions Club is a nonprofit organization, all the revenue from pool operations goes back to the pool, Hirsch said.

The 4-acre site on Victory Street has three pools and two ball fields. The original pool is 10 feet deep with a diving board, and there is a newer lap pool and a baby pool.

"We definitely will be open this summer, but if we have another summer like last summer, I would say we would have to close one of the pools halfway through - that's the only way I could see to do it," Hirsch said.

The lap pool might be closed as early as mid-July, when the 80-member Manchester Sea Lions swim team finishes its season, Hirsch said.

Hirsch said he hoped a public plea might rally local support - especially from local businesses - for the pool that is $17,000 in debt with a wish list of repairs.

While the original pool was renovated eight years ago, Hirsch said the pool committee would like to improve the long driveway and the concrete around the pool, and replace the windows in the bathhouse that have been broken by foul balls. But he said this work doesn't need to be done immediately to keep the pool open.

"We have made profits in the past, which has allowed us to do some of these things we need to do," he said. But "it is expensive running a pool - the upkeep, supplies, lifeguards etc. The operation costs run about $60,000 to $70,000 for the three-month period."

The costs would be higher if Hirsch and Lions volunteers didn't do a lot of the work.

Although Taneytown residents might not make the trek across the top of the county to Manchester, Hirsch said, "I would anticipate getting people from Hampstead" since that town's pool is closing.

Although the Manchester pool has about three times the membership of Hampstead, Hirsch said it would be large enough to accommodate the extra people.

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