Thursday, February 11, 2010

Slocum on the pool enclosure and the bubble's future

I was glad to see Council Chairman Tim Slocum's letter in today's Herald:He addresses a critical issue regarding the pool enclosure:

Many have asked what happens if the referendum fails. The short answer is nothing will happen right away. But, eventually the pool bubble will have to run its useful life and need to be replaced.

I'm glad Chairman Slocum raised this point. But I'm not certain his assertion is correct. He's assuming there will be five votes to continue funding the bubble until its useful life ends.

In other words... of the nine Council members, you would need five members to continue funding the bubble. So maybe the Chairman has done a straw poll? I have not. And based on public statements, I only know two votes with certainty.

I will remain consistent and oppose funding the bubble. It's a total waste of energy and costs too much money for "a self-supporting facility."

But again, that's only two of nine votes. Beyond that, David Schrumm has long been an outspoken advocate of the pool. He even voted for the $20,000 pool consultant in November 2006. So I suspect that's two votes in favor of subsidizing the bubble.

Councilman Mike Ecke also voted in favor of the pool consultant, while Councilman Tom Ruocco opposed it. So they may very well be a vote each way. But based conversations over the years, I think David's unwavering support for the pool is much deeper than any sentiments held by either Ecke or Ruocco.

Regardless, I'm glad Chairman Slocum got this conversation started.

I hope over the next few months that all nine Council members will tell the voters exactly where they stand on the future of the bubble, if a pool enclosure referendum fails.

Tim White


Anonymous said...

Glad to see the new Council move on solving the endless problems with the pool.

But why a referendum in June? That means smaller voter turnout, favoring people with the strongest personal interests. Plus a special referendum will cost the town more money.

Why not have the referendum during the regular election in November? This will save the town money, and ensure wider voter/ taxpayer turnout.

Tim White said...

I've been making that point myself.

For me, I'll need someone to demonstrate a real benefit to a special election.

For example, if the construction could be completed in three months (not going to happen, just saying), then there would be a permanent enclosure in place before the bubble would've even gone up. In a sense, we'd begin saving on the energy bill in September. And I may view that savings as an offset to the cost of a special election.

But I'll need to see how that plays out. I couldn't possibly envision all the possible scenarios where a special election makes sense.

All I know is that my preference is sending it to referendum when I expect the most voters. And that's in November.

So there will need to be a solid case made by someone for me to support a special election.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Senft had a good piece in the Cheshire Herald making some good points. In the last few yrs, she is the first I can remember to bring up actual specific financial benefits to the local economy. I am on the fence about the pool but feel something needs to be done...I am more inclined to a regular structure, no greenhouse look for me....will this be like TARP if we OK the payer money to build it and then they will increase the fees to taxpayers to use it?

Anonymous said...

I think this is a waste of money which seems to be the norm when it comes to the pool. I'm not in favor or a permanent structure, make it seasonal or, better yet, fill it in and make a vegetable garden out of it. The town councilor's should be ashamed to invest precious taxpayer dollars into a pool rather than education. I hope the town council can look deep into their hearts and fund additional money into the education budget request. It's the right to do. Screw the pool, fund the schools!

Anonymous said...

10:21: I don't think all the council members favor a permanent structure, so much as they want to identify the options and let the Voters decide. A "no" vote may well prevail at referendum.

Anonymous said...

If there were truly a significant demand for an indoor pool, the YMCA or another private organization could build one. The cost of subsidizing this bubble in New England while there are so many other pressing issues (like the education of far more children than use the pool) is ridiculous. It is a small but vocal minority of swim parents, some of whom served on the Town Council, who keep this thing afloat/aloft. An indoor pool is nice, but not an item a town should be footing the bill for.

Anonymous said...

4:42 said...
It is a small but vocal minority of swim parents ... who keep this thing afloat/aloft. An indoor pool is nice, but not an item a town should be footing the bill for.

Which is why the referendum should be in Novemeber when more taxpayers will show up, and definitely not held any other time when a small minority will decide.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question...if its so important to local taxpayers why wouln't they all show up in June to support or oppose?

Yes...we all know the locals came out in droves to vote for Obama and they routinely ignore the local election. Maybe those thoughtful types should sit out this decision too.

Get it over in June. If you give a rip one way or the other you will vote.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 442:
"If there were truly a significant demand for an indoor pool, the YMCA or another private organization could build one."

I also agree with 553.
It looks like the pool parents best shot to get the rest of us to shell out $3-5 million is by a low turnout special election. Lets vote on it in November.

Anonymous said...

I have to ask, if a proposal comes in that states the pool will cost 6 mil and will be paid for out of savings, with no cost to the taxpayer and no referendum what would you people against the pool say?

Anonymous said...

screw the pool, fund the school
screw the pool, fund the school...

Thats great!!

I can hear the chant now!

Anonymous said...

They want to have the vote in June so less voters turn out and it passes. In case it fails, it can be added to the November elections and tried again.

What does it cost for a referendum? Tim covered this added waste of money in the past.

Which is more important, a hole in the ground holding water or teachers in the school system? In the same paper, we are told 5-10 teachers can lose their jobs but we are going to build a pool? We are idiots if we vote for it. Any council member in favor of this stupid hole in the ground will NEVER get a vote from me!

Anonymous said...

The town pool was poorly conceived, poorly funded, poorly designed, poorly constructed and poorly maintained for about a decade at this point. During this period tax payers have been subjected to greater and greater subsidies for this albatross. A vocal minority of pool supporters fails to see how messed up it is and is always promising that with just one more fix -- -

The most recent plan to save it is even more grandiose then the others already implemented and funded. Just how long is it going to take until government admits this mistake and fills it in and plants a perennial flower garden in its place - - -?

Anonymous said...

8:57, a June vote (lower turnout) would favor spending money to build the pool. A November vote (more turnout) favors not spending the money. Very unlikely the council would approve a second referendum to change the results of a first vote.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many people in the "fill in the hole" caucus have been going to the town with the tin cup for artificial turf, extending walking trails, buying more open space, and building gaudy sidewalks?

I think the bubble has been a massive disaster. Then again, the net cost of a proper year-round pool might be worth it since it is an existing amentity to the town. Closing the pool will be perceived elsewhere as the town being in decline.

If we can get a permanent solution to the pool problem where we aren't going out of pocket anymore than the present drain I think that's worth considering

Anonymous said...

start charging these private swim clubs to use the pool that is the problem. of course they like to use the pool they don't pay to use it.

Anonymous said...

Closing the pool will not be perceived elsewhere as the town being in decline. Elsewhere for 10 years now everyone has just been laughing at this town as the mess unfolded. And there are the more pragmatic, cynical types who have lined up to see how much money they could collect from the town. Remember the pool consultant report and the gas company cogeneration proposal and the endless final roof/building repairs and the help needed to remove/install the bubble etc etc etc - - - -?

The town had a decade to do it right. Clearly, time is up after a decade. Throw away the bubble and use the pool in the summer or just fill the money pit in and no doubt the town will be perceived as finally watching out for local tax payer dollars. There are plenty of other private pool clubs and quasi-public pool options available. They could all use the extra business at this time too.

Anonymous said...

9:33. Yeah, the fact North Haven has a pool and ours closed due to mismanagement won't be used by North Haven realtors to steer buyers to that town.

I suppose we could close lots of town facilities. Then I'd be better off in Prospect which never built them in the first place and didn't borrow the cash to build them. And I suppose our property values could decline to match Prospect's , too

Tim White said...

ours closed due to mismanagement

Are you arguing that we should maintain a year round facility with poor town management?

Or we should find new town management?

Or something else?

Tim White said...

I'm of the view that the Council's main concern should be ensuring a strong management team is in place.

That's not my view of the current team. So frankly, I think this discussion on the pool enclosure is putting the cart before the horse.

But I'm one of nine.

Anonymous said...

A dcade is long enough. 10 years of repeated failures is too much. In our economy we should not be looking to spend money on a literal hole in the ground. A vote for a year round pool is a vote for higher taxes. How else will we pay for a multi million dollar building? Sorry, ANOTHER multi-million dollar building. Considering keeping the pool year round is a stupid idea brought on by people who do not understand the true needs of this community

Anonymous said...

It should be clear to everyone that if taxes continue to increase everyone will suffer. Our state has lost incredible amount of businesses recently and in fact over the past 30 years. Over that span taxes have just continued to climb uncontrolled.

Who cares what North Haven Realtors have to say anyway? Most folks who currently live in this town, right now probably would
a) like to continue to live in this town
b) would like their employers to remain whole and prosperous
c) are truly very sick and tired of local property taxes and the property tax system which is just so stupid that it cannot respond to what is now a clearly diminishing grand list in this region as shown on p. C1 of yesterday's MRJ and
d) don't really care very much if at all for Realtors as a group in the first place.

Clearly this town doesn't need a municipal pool if swimming year round is what some small sub-group of residents wants. Join an existing Y or one of the local private pool operations. No doubt they also need financial support which they get in a much better fashion. People using those facilities actually pay out of their own pockets for what they actually want and actually use.

Anonymous said...

"You don't want to buy in Cheshire, it's a town where they let things fall apart and don't fix them. The only stuff they have in that town are chain drug stores... now here's some houses in North Haven and Orange you might like"

Yep. Good way to protect our investment in property values. Almost makes as much sense as Marty Coburn approving the zoning for Co-op City II in the North End. Thank god the recession has put the kibosh on that

Anonymous said...

A modest proposal re: referendum timing.

Both parties are likely to have primaries on August 8. Might I suggest if folks want to do this over the summer we have to have the polls open anyway that date.

tim white said...


It had crossed my mind, but there's at least one major drawback to that... you're talking three different voter groups:

1) Ds
2) Rs
3) all eligible voters, including Us.

I imagine that would get tricky.

Some towns have referenda on many, many things. It's not uncommon for such towns to have routinely have voting on consecutive days.

If people had to line up twice, I think we'd have a lot of angry voters at the polls. And I wonder how many would bother queuing up a second time?

Anonymous said...

Here's a really big hint, most people living in a given town don't want to buy in that town - - they already live in the town.

If a town has reasonable services and reasonable taxes most of those living in that town won't be worried about buying in a town like North Haven or Orange, they won't be interested in buying, period.

Now for those people who want to keep their mental image of their property values high because they want to make a load of cash selling their property in the near future, good luck to you. Most of the rest of us would like to slowly make a ton of cash by paying lower and lower property taxes over time.

The pool is a money pit. It only costs more and more real tax dollars while the tax base is becoming constant or shrinking. It has been poorly run forever.

It's kind of like the old Motor City car companies, we'd be better off, short and long term without it.

Anonymous said...

Fill in the eyesore. It is a waste of time, energy, money, etc. Replacing the bubble will raise taxes and this pool is not the reason I want to pay more. Just another example of the council catering to a special interest without regard to the population

Anonymous said...

Fill it in and be done with it. When the turf project kicks off at the high school this summer, all of the extra dirt removed from the football field can be used to fill in the pool. Talk about being efficient.

Anonymous said...

Where were the "fill in the pool" people when the TC approved the most lucrative teacher's contract in CT?

...crickets chirping.....

During the New Deal some visionaries built wonderful public works projects like the Merritt Parkway and the Jones Beach Pavilions people are still using almost a century later. Why do I suspect the cash spent to address this economic downturn is going to be spent on consulting fees, ACORN and pensions no one will give a rat's derriere about in future years.

Anonymous said...

Tim, someone (like you) should have the guts to list all the money this town has wasted on the pool. Starting with the first allocation, through all the repairs, the energy costs, and subsidies by the town to keep the doors open. Then break down the "savings" in energy cost and extrapolate that over the life of the bond the town will have to take to finance a permanent roof. I think once everyone realizes how much that thing costs the town, it won't pass at referendum.

Anonymous said...

9:24 AM
And while tim is getting all this info on the pool maybe he can get the info on the library, the schools, public works, CPD and CFD. Heck we may never pass anymore budget referendums.

tim white said...

The pool referendum passed $2.9 million. Ultimately, the capital costs were close to $4.1 million (as of a few yrs ago).

Then add the $420,000 annual subsidy x 4 yrs... and add the $100,000 & $200,000 subsidies in the first and second years of operations.

Then there are the ad hoc fixes, such as last September's $250,000 mold remediation.

And of course there are the hidden costs, such as P&R / PW staff dealing with the collapsed bubble & door a few weeks ago.

The costs are high. But I don't have the time to research or analyze this.

I'm making a concerted effort to back away from the blog. And I hope interested people, such as yourself, make your requests a reality.

I'm making a concerted effort to regain some balance to my life. This blog and the Council got to be too consuming for me over the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Tim. Life is so short. You do plenty

Anonymous said...

So we are about $6 million into this thing already. Are we seriously considering another $5 million?!?! How much will we save in energy cost in the future?

tim white said...

How much will we save in energy cost in the future?

I think that's the critical issue that needs to be addressed by the PBC. Beyond that, there are quality of life issues. But those aren't going to get it to 50% at referendum... unless it's an incredibly low turnout.

tim white said...

10:45 Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"How much will we save in energy cost in the future?

I think that's the critical issue that needs to be addressed by the PBC...."

If it is turned into a perennial flower garden the heating and operating costs go to almost ZERO.

Go ahead with another multi-million dollar repair, say it comes in at a more realistic 8 million for the final building and then maybe it only costs say $100k per year for heating and maybe another $200k overall subsidy for expenses not paid by the few residents using the pool. Over 10 years that comes to a realistic additional $11 million beyond the cost of a perennial flower garden.

Voting for a flower garden makes economic sense in a town where government has clearly shown over more than a decade that it was incapable of building and maintaining the current swimming albatross.

Over the past decade what has really changed in town government to make an additional outlay for a pool successful this next time?

Anonymous said...

So, how many of our "Town-owned" facilities are self-supporting?
Town hall, BOE building, DPW building, firehouses, CPD,Senior Center, Library, schools,Yellow House, youth center?

Cheshire Park, bartlem Park, Mcnamara,lock 12, Green spaces, Boulder Knoll, Mixville?

Not sure, but quite possibly none?