BUCKSPORT — Support to build a new municipal pool now that the existing pool has aged beyond repair seems watertight.
The Town Council voted unanimously at its June 27 meeting to direct Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard to seek bids for constructing a new pool.
The existing pool, built circa 1950s, will not open this summer due to leaks and safety issues caused by aging infrastructure.
“The town has done extensive maintenance over the years but at the end of the day, the pool was built in the ’50s and has served its lifetime,” Lessard said.
The Down East Family YMCA operates Bucksport’s recreation department, which includes a summer camp for children with activities at the pool.
Y Chief Executive Officer Peter Farragher and Bucksport Y Operations Director Nick Tymoczko attended the meeting to fill the council in on details of the alternative location for camp and swim lessons this summer.
The Y plans to bring summer campers to Craig’s Pond in Orland for recreational swimming. The Y’s swimming lessons will also be held at Craig’s Pond.
“Is it perfect?” Farragher asked. “Absolutely not. But it’s a good plan for the time we have to work with.”
Farragher estimated construction of a new pool at $200,000.
“There’s more work to be done to tighten that price up,” he said.
Council Chairman Peter Stewart said Tymoczko has taken the brunt of complaints about the pool’s closure.
“We live in a world of social media,” Stewart said. “Poor Nick has been hammered. Nick Tymoczko has nothing to do with that pool deteriorating after 60 years. This happened three days ago and we can’t fix this overnight. I implore people please don’t beat up the folks who are doing really, really good stuff for us here in town.”
The Y has hired lifeguards for the season and they will be stationed at the pond.
Chris Price, owner of Flying Moose Camp on Craig’s Pond, is letting the Y use space for summer camp activities.
A handful of residents spoke in favor of building a new pool. No one was opposed.
“The town of Bucksport has benefited greatly having that pool,” said resident Jean Mercer, who was a lifeguard at the pool when some of the councilors were youths.
There were children who were at the pool all day and then walked home four or five miles, Mercer recalled.
“I think it’s very important we replace it somehow,” she said.
Councilor David Kee said a pool has broad appeal for the community from infants to elderly.
Kee also suggested that Bucksport fund the new pool with a portion of its rainy day fund.
“We have $8 million sitting there, I’m not saying let’s spend it all but that might be a good place to look,” Kee said.
Councilor Paul Gauvin agreed.
“I would vote today to spend $200,000 of the rainy day fund,” Gauvin said. “I’m 100 percent for rebuilding that where it sits because I think where it sits is vital.”
The pool is in a residential neighborhood within walking distance to schools as well as public housing complexes.
“I grew up next to the pool, I agree with you,” said Councilor Mark Eastman. “But what about Silver Lake, can we do anything with that?”
“I never understood why we don’t allow it,” added Councilor Rob Carmichael.
Silver Lake serves as the town’s water supply. The town has an ordinance — and a sign — prohibiting swimming.
Lessard said that use of Silver Lake has been brought up in the town’s Comprehensive Plan and needs to be explored.
The town manager at the beginning of the meeting said a few people in town have asked about building an indoor pool, if a new pool needs to be built.
However, Lessard and Stewart questioned the feasibility of an indoor pool for a town of 5,000 residents.
The town of Hampden spent $1 million to build a municipal pool in 1994, said Lessard, who is the former Hampden town manager.
“When I left in 2014, annual operating costs were close to $400,000 a year,” Lessard said.
Stewart said “an indoor pool at $400,000 a year is not feasible.”
The chairman cited the proximity of indoor pools less than a half hour away, including in Ellsworth, Bangor and Belfast. In 2020, an indoor pool is expected to be completed in Blue Hill, near Tradewinds Marketplace.