A new $2.5 million pool at Patton Park will go before Hamilton Town Meeting voters next month to decide whether the project should be paid with Community Preservation Act money.
The Community Preservation Committee backed putting the project before Town Meeting by a 6-2 vote after about a 90-minute discussion on Thursday evening. Committee members Ed Howard and Ray Whipple opposed putting it on the Town Meeting warrant. Committee chairman Tom Catalano noted the committee serves only as a “gatekeeper,” and the final say will rest with the voters at the Nov. 4 Town Meeting.
The CPA was adopted in Hamilton in 2005 and the fund uses money from a 2 percent property tax surcharge. State government money is almost contributed toward the fund, which is used to pay for projects to preserve open space, preserve historic resources, buy or preserve land for recreation use and buy or build affordable housing. Committee members said there was no doubt the pool was an allowable project under the CPA.
The proposed pool got the backing of the Hamilton-Wenham Recreation Committee on Wednesday night. The pool would be a 75-foot long rectangle with a “zero-entry” activity area and a “kiddie area,” plus a new pumphouse, filtration system and bathhouse, according to Recreation Director Sean Timmons.
Selectmen Jeff Hubbard said he has not been convinced that the existing pool cannot be repaired and that the proposed pool is a “scope and size that is just too big for our community.” He suggested a smaller pool that is “scaled down and simple,” noting that the pool is a social area for parents and it is typically only children that use the pool.
Town Manager Michael Lombardo said the existing pool is “structurally unsound” and can’t be patched. The size of the pool was developed by the aquatics division of Weston and Sampson using the town’s demographics data, Lombardo said.
Chad Sumner, the parent of a young family, told the committee that many Hamilton families leave town to use a pool and a new pool would draw many new users – much like the new playground – and become a “cohesive place for summer activity.”
“It going to get used, there no way it doesn’t,” he said.
Lombardo said without a new pool, the existing pool would not open next summer. If a new pool is not constructed, Finance Director Deborah Nippes-Mena said town officials would have to consider bringing a spending proposal before Town Meeting voters next fall to demolish the pool and reclaim the area.
“You couldn’t leave the facility there abandoned for very long,” she said.
If voters approve funding a new pool in NOvember, a new pool could be open by July 2014, Lombardo said.
Catalano said the CPA would propose using about one-third of its reserve – about $540,000 – toward the project and then finance the rest. Lombardo said the use of the reserve would mean the CPA fund “would still have a very robust cash reserve.”
Lombardo and other also said they will work with Wenham to see how much it will contribute to the project and fundraising is also expected to be undertaken. Mena also said that it was likely that the Recreation Committee would commit some of the revenue from pool fees toward the CPC’s debt payments.
Howard, one of the two CPC members who opposed the project, said the project was not “sellable” at Town Meeting and encouraged the project to be broken up into two “affordable and sellable” projects.”
Timmons said multiple phases had been discussed, but a significant portion of the work involves septic and bathhouse work that would have to be done regardless of the size of the pool that would cost even more if it was done in multiple phases.
“The Recreation Committee has already determined it is a complete project,” Catalano said.