Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bubble Study mtg 5/20

It's late, so this will be a quick post.

The Bubble Study met tonight. The guests were the YMCA swim team and the CHS swim teams.

Two bits of information piqued my interest:

1) swim team members (165-180 or so YMCA swimmers, throughout the year / 20-25 CHS boys swimmers / 45-50 CHS girls swimmers) are not included among the 45,000 annual day use passes; and

2) we still haven't locked in a natural gas rate... and that's not good. Actually, it's quite bad... but I'm not even getting into the significance of that tonight.

Anyway... I asked a few questions that revolved around a relatively uncomplicated idea...

If we take the bubble down and leave it down... could we take that $430,000/yr subsidy and just build a whole new pool, including an energy-efficient building, right next to the high school? Could we save energy and money at the same time?

Or perhaps even do something with the YMCA? (I got that idea from pool-champion Diane Visconti).

Don't get me wrong... I'm far from wanting to spend one penny on a new pool... I just know that I don't want to spend any more money on the White Elephant. That bubble is such a complete waste of money and energy... and I, whether I'm right or not, I do feel as though the Council majority is simply afraid to make even a peep about the pool. So if I don't say something... and continue the discussion that I began at the Feb 26 Council meeting... they're going to just sit back and wait for the worst... which is completely irresponsible on their part.

But hey... this situation is difficult for them because while the voters are directing the Council to act... we all know the Council doesn't take direction from the voters. They take direction from staff:

Tim White

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tim, was it ever discussed to let the YMCA take over the managing of the pool,so the town won't be responsible for the funding?

Those swimmers are dedicated and do turn up in support, but we can't continue to pay almost a half million dollars so they can swim in this pool.

How much would it cost to rent pool time for our swim teams if we make the pool summer only? It has to be a lot cheaper then what we are paying now.

I suggested in an earlier blog that we build a smaller pool next to the school, but was told that the "swimming community" would never go for it. I find it hard to believe that they would be the ones who dictate to us what we should do.

Breachway said...

Something tells me the YMCA doesn't want anything to do with owning the pool. Their board of directors will never go for it as the annual expense doesn't make sense to anyone but the Cheshire town council and the swim teams. I can't get over how smart people like M Hall and E Esty think the pool should go on and on...and I voted for them both.

Anonymous said...

Hi Diane Visconti here..Just to be clear..I've thrown out the idea of somehow partnering with the Y to lots of people. I have no idea if the Y is interested. I just think this is a good time to get creative about the pool, energy and plans for the future. The Y is known for its well run programs and extensive activities. The Y swim team is nationally recognized (has 2 smimmers going to Olympic trial next month!!!) and has super involved and hard working parents who understand the importance of swimming as a year round sport. I was thrilled to know the town's pool sub committee met with the Y pool people (and has reached out to all involved). Problems are to be solved and I am optimistic about the future of Cheshire swimming.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Diane.

I have always been optimistic about Cheshire Swimming, just not so optimistic about finding a solution to the high cost of operating our town pool.

Lets hope this isn't another rubberstamp deal and both parties will work together for the betterment of Cheshire and its citizens.

Anonymous said...

Is ANYONE looking at what the lowest lifecycle cost of a full time swimming facility would be?

I see us being presented with two really lame choices: reduce the quality of services by shutting down except in the summer (sorry. Mr. Gore we are still too far north for an outdoor pool to make much sense) or in the alternative, keep the bubble running and urinate away taxpayer dollars ad infintum on a defective facility.

Doing the right thing will probably cost some money, which we might have if it wasn't wasted on astroturf and fancy sidewalks next to the auto body shop

Anonymous said...

I can't get over how smart people like M Hall and E Esty think the pool should go on and on...and I voted for them both.

Just goes to show, we get what we vote for. (Any way we can replace either of them with Diane V ??)

Anonymous said...

"Doing the right thing will probably cost some money, which we might have if it wasn't wasted" ...

The TC just wasted an extra 75,000 plus by awarding a bid to a local company instead of awarding it to the lowest bidder whose company has served Cheshire very well in the past. I still can't believe they did this. It's a slap in the face to CT Combustion and all of us taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

It's great to hear that some swimmers make it to the olympic trial etc. but do any of our atheletes every give back anything to this Town? In over 30 years I have not heard of any giving us any $$$. I'm all for supporting the kids and the pool with my tax dollars but once in while it would be great to see a donation or something.

Anonymous said...

The pool issue is going to be a very difficult subject to come to any kind of a solution. If energy is the driving cost then let's start by saving the wasted energy in our school buildings. I know over the years energy tips have been utilized but we can see just how much is wasted daily. Let's save in these areas and assist in the other areas of conservation and meeting the potential high cost of fuel. I don't envy the towns future decisions on the pool

Anonymous said...

The problem with the current discussion of the pool is that it focuses on one side of the equation: reducing energy consumption. The only way to achieve significant reductions in energy consumption is either to erect a permanent structure to cover the pool or to make the pool a summer-only facility. Both of these solutions impact current users of the pool and are unpopular. Therefore, the town council will be faced with either continuing to use the bubble and subsidize the pool or angering a significant fraction of residents.

One potential solution is to start exploring the other side of the equation: energy generation. By investing in renewable energy (e.g. solar), the town could generate its own energy to run an indoor/outdoor pool, thereby reducing costs and the amount of the pool subsidy. Instead of trying to determine how to spend two million dollars on a structure that no one really wants, why not consider investing that money in renewable energy that may allow the town to continue offering a pool that serves the entire community.

Anonymous said...

Both of these solutions impact current users of the pool and are unpopular.
They may imapact current users, but how unpopular is it?
I bet if you took a poll of the residents and asked them if they want to continue to subsidize the pool to the tune of $460,000 + per year or make it a summer only pool, you will find more in favor of the latter.

Anonymous said...

The more pertinent question is if you held a public meeting to discuss making the pool summer only, how many more people would show up to oppose the change than support it? Based on turn out at previous such meetings, I'd guess the overwhelming majority would oppose converting the pool to summer only. Let's face it, the majority of residents may not like paying the subsidy but they also don't consider it important enough to take a strong position. The debate is going to be driven by residents who care strongly about the pool and its cost. Right now the numbers strongly favor supporters of a year round pool. They're also better organized (swim teams) and have more financial resources.

My prediction is that all the proposals for building a permanent cover will be dismissed because of cost (residents will never vote to spend another 2 million dollars on the pool) and negative impact on summer attendance. Someone will then propose converting the pool to summer only, and they'll be lined up out the door in their LZR Racers to voice their opposition to the proposal. This will allow the Democrats to say that they tried to find an alternative but the only acceptable solution is to continue with the current system.

Anonymous said...

Just because a small group of supporters show up at a meeting shouldn't sway the TC. Our representatives should make every effort they can to speak with their constituents to find out what they want.

If the TC voted based on turnout for every issue, this town would be in worse shape then it is already.

If the swim team is better organized and has financial resources, then let them figure out how to fix this mess!

I do have a question though, will the continuing subsidy of the pool ever have to come up in a referendum? Or can it? At what price do we stop and say, in the words of Mr. Ecke, "Enough is Enough"?

Anonymous said...

why would a permanent cover reduce summer attendance?

Seems like we are letting 65 warm days govern what we do for the 300 tepid, cool or cold days we have in Cheshire

Anonymous said...

During the summer people want to sit outside by the pool, catching some rays and enjoying the fresh air. No one wants to sit inside a concrete bunker, oversized tent or polycarbonate terrarium when its warm outside.

tim white said...

12:34 re: solar...

My understanding is that to generate the heat required to maintain the pool at 83F (or so) you would need a significant amount of space to place the water heaters and/or photovoltaics (electric generators). The Energy Commission had a lively and very informative discussion on PVs on Monday night... based on that discussion and others I've heard... I don't think PVs make much of a dent in the pool's energy consumption... but it can be discussed further... I'm not an expert on PVs by any means.

tim white said...

My prediction is that all the proposals for building a permanent cover will be dismissed because of cost (residents will never vote to spend another 2 million dollars on the pool)

I tend to agree with you... if there's a cash outlay. But if the Council demonstrates real energy conservation, based on accepted measures... I think people may support a project financed with a performance contract.

Unfortunately, that's something that the Council will simply not consider. See... staff is concerned that a performance contract could negatively impact the town's debt rating.

And if staff oppose something, this Council will do nothing and effectively Rubber Stamp staff's wishes... frankly, it's a sad situation in which the Council majority is a complete failure... though to their credit, the leadership have at least admitted they're paralyzed.

But to prove my point about how foolish this opposition to performance contracts is... even if a performance contract did impact the town's debt rating (from the perspective of the ratings agencies)... that would simply increase our debt expense. Which isn't a great thing... but you would then measure that increased debt expense against the cost-savings related to energy savings.

It's fairly simple. The real impediment to action is the Council majority's inability to lead.

And for the record... about a year ago, during a subcommittee meeting... I posed this very question to the majority.

I explained that in this situation, we have two things in conflict:

1) minimizing debt and
2) conserving energy

For me... I know there is an (indirect) link between our energy consumption and mideast oil. And for that reason alone, I thought the Democrats would prefer energy conservation over minimizing debt. But I was wrong... it was about that time that I realized they were nothing but a Rubber Stamp Council. Strong words? Perhaps, but the issues are too serious for the Council's action/inaction to remain unnoticed.

tim white said...

will the continuing subsidy of the pool ever have to come up in a referendum? Or can it? At what price do we stop and say, in the words of Mr. Ecke, "Enough is Enough"?

My understanding is that operating budget items never go to referendum, unless petitioned.

All Capital budget items over $350k go to referendum.

As long as the pool budget is part of the operating budget... it would never go to referendum.

As for "enough is enough," I see no relationship between action and rhetoric.

Heck... last August I asked to have performance contracting seriously considered for the 5-yr capital budget... specifically, I wanted the high school electric retrofit to be considered...

Yet it took Ecke FOUR months to put PC on the budget committee agenda (Aug 30 to Dec 17). And what did he request? He asked the volunteer energy commission to investigate it... which, in retrospect, I realized was just another punt on the part of the Rubber Stampers.

Fast forward to March (or thereabouts) and the Rubber Stampers voted to move forward with the CHS electric retrofit... without directing the PBC to consider performance contracting...

See that's exactly how this town works... delay, delay, delay... until everyone forgets... that's the M.O. of staff... and the Council majority is happy to Rubber Stamp that approach.

Again... while the words may be strong... I feel compelled to let people know how I see things.

Anonymous said...

"During the summer people want to sit outside by the pool, catching some rays and enjoying the fresh air. No one wants to sit inside a concrete bunker, oversized tent or polycarbonate terrarium when its warm outside."

Why is North Haven's pool in a "concrete bunker"? Maybe because they can count and realise in New England there are far more cold and/or wet days than bright sunny days

We are now spending close to $500K/year of taxpayer money sustaining a deficient facility to appease some folks sense of summertime aesthetics

Anonymous said...

It would be cheaper to build an "outside pool" for the sun worshipers. Two pools double the fun.