September 4, 2013

Summer Was Safe at Pool but Funds Still Needed

As another season at Community Park Pool draws to a close, officials are calling it a success — and not just because attendance was up.

“The most important part of our season is that it was a safe season,” said Ben Stentz, Princeton’s Director of Recreation. “When you operate a large public pool, safety is paramount. And not a day goes by that we don’t think about it and prepare, just in case we need to act. So we’ve gotten through another summer, knock on wood — the safest summer I can remember, and not just with the pool but with our camps, too. Any incidents were minor. So that is first and foremost, and it trumps everything else.”

Community Pool’s final opening hours of the season are Saturday and Sunday, this weekend and next. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. each day.

While safety issues are under control, another half million dollars is still needed to pay down the debt on the pool, which was refurbished last year to the tune of $6.5 million. At the Princeton Council meeting August 26, a status report on the fundraising campaign was delivered by Peter O’Neill, president of the Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund citizens’ group. Mr. O’Neill told Council members that although the pool has been operational and successful for two seasons, donations are still needed to bridge the gap.

“The treasury is not closed,” he said. “We are still open for business. People can go on the recreation department’s website to make a donation.”

Since the group began raising funds two years ago, 340 donations have been made. Mr. O’Neill said he is confident that the full amount will be raised. Among the options for closing the gap are raising user fees, or having the citizens’ group invest the funds already collected and transfer the money over time. “The current amount in the account is sufficient to cover $1 million in debt services over 20 years,” Mr. O’Neill said, adding that the fund wants to expand to other recreation projects.

The Council is working on amendment of an agreement from 2011, which will provide for the group, paying Princeton $50,000 a year for 20 years. Additionally, a stipulation that says the group cannot solicit funds for other projects until the entire $1 million amount is raised would be removed.

Despite the shortfall, Mr. Stentz gives high marks to the citizens’ group for their efforts. “People have to remember that the contract to build the pool wasn’t awarded until July 2011,” he said. “Between then and our opening less than a year later, this group had raised multiple thousands of dollars. This was a short time frame. From where I sit, they are saints. These are private people who have gone out and raised money on behalf of the municipality. We hope to continue to have the fund on our side for the pool and other projects.”

The Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund was created in 2008 by the recreation boards of what was then Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, as part of the Master Plan. There are various options for donating to the pool fund, including commemorative bricks and plaques. Visit for more information.