New pool, due in summer, worth the wait, Mechare says

FALLS VILLAGE - It’s looking more and more as though, after five years without a municipal swimming facility, Falls Village will finally open its new town pool this summer.

"I told you we’ll all be hanging by our thumbs and our toes in the public green if it’s not finished," First Selectman Pat Mechare said to her fellow board members at the Jan. 14 Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

The foundation for the pool house was poured last year and the frame for the poolhouse is currently being erected. The excavation and the pouring of the foundation of the pool itself were completed in 2005, as were the underground plumbing and stainless steel exterior.

"Everyone needs to keep in mind that much of this is being donated," Mechare explained in an interview.

The project is being completed in large measure by volunteer labor and donated material. Such an arrangement saves taxpayer funds but tends to drag out municipal construction projects as volunteers try to balance work on the pool with their paying jobs, she explained.

Mechare said she hopes the poolhouse will be up by sometime in March, but winter weather might intrude, in which case the structure will be done in the spring. Then the installation of the bathrooms, along with the interior electrical and plumbing work, can be completed in short order.

Tim Downs, superintendent of the town’s department of public works, has been clerk-of-the-works for the pool project and is receiving a stipend of between $2,000 and $3,000. Lumber for the project has been donated by the Falls Village Saw Mill and former First Selectman Louis Timolat.

The pool was approved by voters in March 2003. It was supposed to have been built that summer but construction was delayed in part by an unsuccessful lawsuit filed against the town by a contractor who was not selected during the bidding process.

The pool process was also slowed by the need to find a site and obtain health department approval for a new well.

Some residents also argued that the town could not afford the price tag, that there might be hidden costs and that there were possible health issues associated with the site near the town transfer station, which is located on the now-closed former landfill.

The pool will be built on 76 acres of town-owned land at the intersection of routes 63 and 126. Known as the Town Farm, the site also has plenty of room for additional facilities that could be constructed over time, such as new ballfields and a skating rink.

The new pool replaces the old spring-fed pool that used to be next to the Falls Village Day Care Center on Page Road. That pool was ordered shut down by the Torrington Area Health District at the end of the 2002 season.

The town’s swimming team has been using the North Canaan pool since 2003. But since then, Falls Village has not had to hire lifeguards and other personnel to staff a pool, resulting in financial savings.

In a town meeting in March 2005, residents voted 32-11 to increase the size of the proposed municipal pool from four lanes to six. The larger size will allow the town swim team to host its own meets, but it also increased the projected cost of the facility.

A reimbursement grant of $250,000 has already been secured from the state’s Small Towns Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). Savings of as much as $150,000 have been set aside as a result of having no facility during the last five seasons. Total costs were originally estimated at between $400,000 and $500,000.

Mechare said the final costs are still unclear. She has already told the Board of Finance there could be a gap in funding. If more funds are needed to complete the project, voters would have to approve the additional spending in a town meeting.

"It’s gotta be ready for this summer," Mechare said. "I believe it will be worth the wait."


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