Wednesday, January 12, 2011

RIP: The pool bubble

Most importantly, no one was injured... which brings me to the memorial service...

Via referendum in 1996, the white elephant was born. As with many government projects, it contained two critical issues:

1) the capital budget; and
2) the operating budget.

First, we had the $2.9 million capital costs. But by the time the capital costs stopped being recorded, it was already in excess of $4.0 million.* And while Council after Council have been fired by the voters every two years since 1999, in part because of the pool, the voters were never really given an honest take on whether the additional $1.1 million was legal. Instead, Council's simply skirted the rules by spending less than the $330,000** referendum limit.

Second, we had the annual operating subsidy of $400,000. With the explanatory text of the referendum suggesting both a year-round and self-sustaining facility, the pols who brought forward the pool in 1996 were lacking:

1) intellectual honesty;
2) the ability or willingness to critically analyze the proposal; or
3) the means to tell the future of energy costs.

I think the biggest problem was #3. Though I think all three issues played some role to varying extents.

And of course, Council after Council refused to address the problems of the pool directly. Instead, the M.O. was to throw more good money after bad. It wasn't until 2010 that a Council accepted the need to tackle the pool head-on.

The $7 million referendum failed, but it was the first time that a Council acted responsibly. And the PBCs work is still outstanding. I expect they'll soon return to the Council with a plan for the bubble. But I also expect the proposal could exceed $1,000,000. If so, it'll probably be sunk even before a Council vote. In other words, my feeling is that the PBC work is an exercise in futility... other than showing the voters that it's not viable... at least in this economic climate.

So my guess is that although the Council will continue to have discussions regarding a year-round pool into the 2011 fall election, the pool has finally met it's match... a combination of:

1) Father Time;
2) New England's winter snows; and
3) the voters.

Yup. Between the seven million dollar pool structure and the half million dollar track, the voters have made it clear to the Town's elected officials that there's a difference between necessities and niceties.

Looking forward to the immediate consequences of the bubble collapse, what will happen with pool programs? I'm sure some will be cancelled, but others will be relocated. One thing to keep in mind -- not for this year, but next -- is that if the pool structure passed, it was stated that it would've been possible to relocate swim programs. So programming would have continued without a great deal of interruption.

Looking farther into the future, this raises a question about the scope of an agreement between the Town and Yankee Gas. The pool would've been profitable for Yankee in the short-term. But laying pipeline extensions to Norton and Doolittle may have a 30-year payback. Combining the two would've been beneficial to the town and, perhaps, acceptable to Yankee. But the lack of the pool will certainly be taken into consideration by Yankee as the DPUC requires their projects to have timelines for their projected ROI.

And looking to our spring ritual, I expect the PBC to complete their bubble study prior to the adoption of the Town's operating budget. It'd certainly make the budget process easier having a sense of whether there could be another $400,000 subsidy for a year-round pool... or if that subsidy may be reduced for a summer-only pool. My guess is that the Council will adopt a budget with a $50,000 to $100,000 subsidy for a summer-only pool.

As for how that $300,000 savings plays out politically... I venture that if you ignore all the moving pieces of the budget, there will be a Democratic proposal to increase the education budget by the amount reduced in the pool subsidy. If that happens, most eyes will be on the annual debate of the school budget... not on the pool. That would signal the planting of flowers on the bubble's grave... with the year-round pool being unceremoniously walked into the sunset.

Or maybe the Y will lease the facility for $1 / year?

Tim White

* This does not include all capital improvements to the pool, such as the $250,000 wasted on mold remediation in September 2009.

** The threshold is now $350k, but it was raised after the pool construction was supposedly completed in 2003.


Tim White said...

Beyond the annual subsidy, there will be savings for the voters.

I understand that in situations like this, you could have town crews inside the bubble heating it. The intention was to melt the snow before it accumulated and collapsed the bubble. But do you think that OT pay ever hit the pool budget?... that would increase the subsidy.

I'm sure there will be lots of "incidentals" that will no longer exist.

Anonymous said...

Not that it matters, but I believe voters also approved a supplemental appropriation of $600K several years after the original $2.9 million was approved.

Anonymous said...

there is more than enough blame to go around. This town wants to be Greenwich but wont commit the captial. Parents complain about taxes and then whine when programs are cut. Politicians blame previous TC's for all the woes. Heres a hint, if you want to be the best you have to pay for it. Thats why athletes pay for camps, private training, and top of the line equipment. So it will pay off down the road. The athletic fields in this town are a joke. The pool should be covered permanently. The roads should be repaired properly. The schools need to place product ahead of perception. And guess what. Taxes must go up to pay for it. Thats a product of the system.

Tim White said...

I may be wrong, but I was thinking the $600k went to referendum in 1998 and was rejected... but I don't recall at this point. As you said, it doesn't really matter. I think the whole thing got put to rest today.

Anonymous said...

Are you nuts?
We don't want to be Greenwich.
Most of us living in this town are hard working people with modest incomes. We want the taxes to me as low as possible, realizing that we will not have some ammenities that towns, like Greenwich may have,
This isn't a town with multi-million dollar homes. We aren't old money rich nor are we the nouveau rich. Money is tight for many of us.
Perhaps you have your own dream for Cheshirem but that isn't the majority. When the permanent roof was defeated by as large a margin as it was, you should read that as the residents in this town don't want nor need this at this time.
So, get off your high horse. Move to Greenwich if you want a town that has unlimited resources.
This is Cheshire, A town built by hard working farmers and now has residents who want to raise families in a nice environment.

Anonymous said...

RIP the pool. This is what happens when one tries to build and run these things on the cheap.

Typical Connecticut small-town provincial crap.

Freaking ridiculous. This town is pathetically lacking in the kind and variety of amenities that should be in a town of this size - pool, public golf course, indoor tennis, indoor rink.

All you cheap bastards that moan about taxes and never want to spend $$ on capital projects that improve the quality of life for the residents of Cheshire can now be proud. Puff out your chests, hold your heads high, you've diminished the quality of life in your town. Nice job dickheads.

My God, what a pathetic sorry joke of a laughing-stock Cheshire is.

It could have invested the proper amount to build it right in the first place but was cowed by the usual short-sighted cheap pinheads.

Having lived in a variety of towns around the country similar demographically and socioeconomically to Cheshire I have to tell you - Cheshire isn't anything special as far as towns go. And I hate to break it the news, plenty of towns beside Greenwich have pools. Not just the semi-affluent ones, the dowdy ones have them too (sorry 'Staven and Plainville). And when narrow-minded townies say that "Cheshire isn't Greenwich you know" I have to laugh. At them. Obviously they don't get outside of Cheshire too much. Poor things.

Anonymous said...

I have an idea for you, why don't you get out of Cheshire permanently!
Mr. Bigshot, since you have no problem paying more in taxes for something that maybe 5% of the citizens in this town use, why not pick up the tab for the entire cost?

Please tell me what towns , similar to Cheshire in both population and per-capita income, that have publicly funded pools, indoor tennis courts, golf courses, and ice rinks? I don't know of any.
Perhaps you have been under a bubble yourself and have not noticed that in a down economy, most towns are cutting back.
East Haven (I prefer to use the proper name and not the ethnic slang that you prefer) has more tax money comin in then CHeshire due to waterfront property taxes. They also have a town beach. Thye have a pool attached to their high school that probably would have been cheaper to build then our own pool. They also get more state funding then we do.
Cheshire had a rink, but sold it. That was a mistake, it was more feasible then the pool.
The pool didn't have to be that big, but the almighty swim parents wanted an Olympic size pool, so they got this one.
Previous TC kept an influx of money coming in by staying just under the amount so it wouldn't go to referendum.
So, genius, what should we do?
Tell all homeowners that we will be doubling their taxes for the next 2 years so we can get a new pool, golf course and indoor tennis courts?
People like you amaze me. Do you have any concept of money and how it works?
I don't think so.
Please move....

Anonymous said...

12:08 - your an ass...I look forward to your list of towns that have all these things

Anonymous said...

Cheshire NEVER had an ice rink. It was a private rink that was offered to the town at around 150000, including all equipment. The town balked. Same as the Legionaires of Christ property, passed on that too. Wouldnt that have been a nice property too.
Everyone wants low taxes obviously. The point is the town must maintain and improve its facilities. We are no longer a little bedroom community. Fighting expansion, development, and modernization of facilities. Time to grow up and realize everything costs money. Low bidder is not the best bidder.

Anonymous said...

If 12:08 is rolling in the dough, you know he/she must have inherited it because, by the way they write, you can tell it wasn't because of any higher education institute.

Anonymous said...

Is the bubble insured against this type of damage?

Anonymous said...

Finally, the bubble has met with what all bubbles meet with sooner or later. It has been unceremoniously deflated. Clearly, global warming couldn't save it from old fashioned New England winter weather.

Here's hoping that our town fathers now have the intuition and foresight to just shut that gas valve into the facility OFF. Will town government just continue to heat the pool in the hopes to minimize damages from freezing temperatures or will they bring in the dump trucks and fill in the hole?

Anonymous said...

All the town managements fault, parks and recreation did not have the proper equipment to handle a snow fall such as we had. The town council should consider a new TM & Public works director. Public Works should have helped Parks & rec. If they did help they did not know what the hell they were doing. These pool problems have been going on for years and wasting tax payer’s money. Hire people that know what they are doing or dump the pool.

Anonymous said...

939, you appear to be vey familiar with "institutes". It's a blog relax. These blog haters should take a course on blog behavior at Univ of Kansas. They know what's up.

Anonymous said...

When the pool was built; a screw up between the bubble manufacturer and the Pool Builder (Out of state contractor that never built a pool before) the town had to heat the pool over the winter and they did not even use a solar blanket. A solar blanket would of paid off in the first month. This is typical of town engineers; past and present. Additional costs are absorbed by the tax payers; not the management.

Anonymous said...

A bubble in New England has always been seen as asking for problems. I hope now that it is down, we do not consider covering the pool with another bubble. We have to either bite the bullet and put a permanent roof over the pool or if the taxpayers will not go for that, make it a summer only facility. I also think if we put a permanent roof over the pool we can do it for less than $7m.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad nobody on this town council would consider Justin Aldinolfi's alternate proposal to the permanent structure. For he knew how to solve the pool bubble once and for all...

Wait...he knew how to solve the heating/energy issues...but didn't give any specifics.

But...he had a cheaper solution for a bubble cover which was...another bubble cover.

Never mind.

Ding dong the bubble is dead.

Anonymous said...

So, when the pool bubble completely .... to bed like it just did is there insurance in place that will cover the costs associated with the damage to the pool facility, doors and bubble itself?

Or are the costs of this catastrophe going to be eaten by the Cheshire taxpayer?

Tim W: How many pool bubbles do you count in Haiti?

Anonymous said...

Dumb question: Don't we have more than one bond outstanding on the pool facility? Even if some were to graciously donate 10,000 yard of fill and $10,000 of flowers to fill in the pool...Cheshire would still be paying a bond on that 'facility'? I thought I heard this stated during the permanent structure debate. If so, it may very well be the world's most expensive flower bed.

Anonymous said...

Tim is jerk who has hurt cheshire glad he's gone

tim white said...

it may very well be the world's most expensive flower bed

Well, we are the bedding plant capitol! haha... j/k.

As for insurance... since the MRJ is reporting that the adjusters are looking at it, I'm guessing that the insurance won't cover the cost of a new bubble. It'll probably cover the value of the bubble as of two days ago. If that's the case, then the town won't get squat. I mean, it was an eleven (??) year old bubble that had a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years. If a car has a similar life expectancy, you're not getting much when the adjusters determine your car is totaled.

tim white said...

The town council should consider a new TM & Public works director.

12:13 I agree... still need to find five votes though. A year ago I thought the five votes were there, but public votes ended up being quite different from private statements.

It was very disappointing to me.

I applaud Anne & Jimmy though for stickin to their guns. They know that we can do better.

Anonymous said...

"Tim is jerk who has hurt cheshire glad he's gone"

The truth hurts. Come back Tim W!!! We miss you!

Anonymous said...

Tim, hurry back!
you were right all along!
this crap is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

There will be a candlelight memorial service for the pool bubble Sat night at 8pm at the Town Pool. Bring a candle.

P.S. If you think this is joke...just wait. ;-)