Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 31
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
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“What’s Not Simple?”: Rec Board Responds to Pool Complex Critics

Ellen Gilbert

“I’m very confused,” said Recreation Department Board Chair Joanne Rogers in a recent interview. “We have locker rooms with toilets, showers, and changing rooms. I don’t know what they consider not simple about that.”

Ms. Rogers’s frustration comes in the wake of expressions of dissatisfaction with updated proposed pool complex designs at recent municipal meetings.

“We removed the bridge and re-situated the family pool,” Ms. Rogers noted as she described changes made in response to earlier criticism of the plans. “Our intention is to provide good facilities that make the community happy. Nobody is not listening; we want to hear what people have to say — but we have to hear what everybody has to say — not just a few. We’ve worked for two years on this project, getting a lot of input from public.”

“We also have a fiscal responsibility,” Ms. Rogers added, “and doing buildings a certain way might make maintenance higher in future.”

By “doing buildings a certain way” Ms. Rogers was referring to the hope, expressed most prominently in writing and at recent meetings by Ron Berlin, that the changing rooms remain open-air. Both Ms. Rogers and Recreation Department Executive Director Jack Roberts said that outside contractors have indicated that the current buildings are not salvageable, and new open-air buildings would be difficult to sustain, with rain and snow constantly degrading the facilities. Swim team members using the pool have also noted the poor conditions in which they must leave their belongings on a regular basis.

“There is no savings involved in trying to keep the current locker rooms or in recreating them,” said Ms. Rogers. “Our plan is a simple plan, with a reduced footprint and the basic elements needed to run efficiently.”

Although Mr. Berlin attended a Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) meeting on Wednesday evening, he did not attend the Thursday evening meeting of the Recreation Board. Walter Frank’s was the only dissenting voice, and, according to Ms. Rogers, “Walter clearly didn’t represent the dissatisfied faction.” In response, however, to the recent concerns expressed about building designs, the Board agreed, according to Ms, Rogers, “to revisit, the front facade and profile of the building structure, the size of the locker rooms, and the ventilation of the locker rooms (cutting holes in the roof).”

This “limited reevaluation phase,” Mr. Roberts said, will include an August 3 meeting (after press time) between Brandstetter Carroll architect Mike Carroll and the pool renovation subcommittee. The next public hearing on the pool will be at a joint meeting of Borough Council and Princeton Township on Monday, August 16.

At the PEC meeting, which was attended by Mr. Roberts, Assistant Recreation Department Director Ted Ernst, and Borough Council representative Roger Martindell, conversation focused largely on energy use at the proposed complex.

Mr. Roberts noted that, with only a three-month season, using solar panels on the buildings made more sense than a solar hot-water system.

PEC member Steve Hiltner encouraged those involved in the pool complex design to measure potential energy use, noting that Princeton has “committed to a 12 percent reduction in energy consumption in the coming years. It’s not necessarily possible in this situation, but at least ask.”

Mr. Roberts concurred, agreeing that more documentation is needed from the University-based Princeton Energy Group. He also noted that “money has dried up,” and wondered if “there are any grants in place to be able to purchase things to begin with.” PEC Chair Matthew Wasserman noted that state funds are being released on a quarterly basis, and that he would get information on other alternatives.

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