Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 36
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
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Recreation Board Seeks Input on Pool Renovations

Ellen Gilbert

The Recreation Department Board approved its master plan, which includes plans for renovating the Community Park swimming pool complex, at its monthly meeting last Thursday. They will present the plan to a joint meeting of the Township Committee and Borough Council on Monday evening, September 15, at 7 p.m. at Township hall.

Although the pool officially closed on Labor day, it will reopen on Saturday afternoon, September 6, from noon to 3 p.m., when residents (including non-members) are invited to come for a free swim and a chance to talk about what they would like to see in the pool complex’s next incarnation.

“I’ll read a list of the 28 things that are wrong with the pool area right now,” said Recreation Department Executive Director Jack Roberts, half-jokingly referring to the myriad problems the pools, walkways, locker rooms, and office spaces are experiencing after 41 years of service. A number of these problems leave portions of the site in non-compliance with official standards for such facilities.

Besides Mr. Roberts, the September 6 meeting will feature representatives from CMX Corporation, the firm that the Recreation Department has retained to come up with three alternative concept plans for the new pool complex, which will be located on the same site as the existing one. Speakers from CMX will talk about implementing energy- and water-saving advances in pool technology, but mostly, according to Mr. Roberts, they will listen, garnering as much input from the community as possible. “We want to walk through this as carefully as we can,” he said, observing that although preparation of the plans was originally believed to be a three-month project, it may take up to six months to get the job done right.

The September 6 meeting will be the first of several that will seek input from residents. It is the only one, however, that will take place at the pool where Mr. Roberts and CMX representatives can literally point to the eroding pipes, rotting wood, and patched pool walls currently plaguing the facility. Program Supervisor Kathy Herlihy added to the evidence when she reported that “all three pools” had recently failed a “grounding and bonding inspection” required by the state. The cost of the inspection which must take place every five years, was $1800, and the cost of “remediation” to repair the faulty electrical fixtures is estimated at $1600.

In other business, Borough Council member Andrew Koontz was asked whether or not the department would participate in the Harrison Street Park improvement project. Refurbishing the park has been under discussion by the Borough for some time, said Mr. Koontz, but the most recent “semi-official” plans are the closest Council has come to garnering neighborhood approval. A friends group has participated in cleaning up the park, and environmentalist Stephen Hiltner was hired to do a formal assessment of the grounds. The results of Mr. Hiltner’s survey, Mr. Koontz said, confirmed what they already knew: that the park, which is located in the Borough off Nassau Street, has “significant problems,” including drainage issues, older, invasive species of trees, and outmoded playground equipment.

Mr. Koontz reported that Borough Council had made a commitment to help finance the project with a $300,000 bond issue, which, he said, probably represents about 50 percent of the cost of the project. He wondered if the Recreation Department might step in to help pay for remedying the drainage problem of the multi-purpose field located in the park, refurbishing the existing basketball court, or providing new playground equipment.

Mr. Roberts observed that whether or not they are financially involved, the Recreation Department stands ready to help with “administrative” aspects of projects like this one, providing advice about equipment purchases and other services. He also noted the possible difficulty of having to reconcile simultaneous requests for money (which would come out of the department’s capital plan) to support both the new pool complex and playground equipment. However, it was agreed that discussions would continue, and that they should include Township representatives, since youngsters from the Township use the park as well. Mr. Roberts pointed to the recently reopened Potts Playground as an example of the successful revival of a neighborhood park through a collaborative effort that included both the Borough and the Township.

It was noted that some scholarship money is available for youngsters participating in programs like the traveling basketball league, and that some families pay on an incremental basis. Mr. Roberts reminded the board that “outreach” was part of the department’s mission, so it was “okay to lose some money.” New programs for youngsters this year include juggling, which proved a success at camp this summer, and chess. Both will be held in the department’s downstairs conference room.

The availability of space — gym space, in particular — arose again with discussion of a scheduled September 9 committee meeting. Members of the Recreation Department expressed the hope that the Valley Road structure would remain a “community building,” noting the current presence there of Corner House, Young Achievers of Princeton, and TV 30, as well as the Princeton Regional Schools offices. The addition of “two municipal gyms” would, it was agreed, be a boon for the department.

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