Elected officials and the Ashland community will soon have to decide just how much the town’s pool in Carter Park is worth.
Rough estimates to replace or renovate the aging aquatic facility are running in the neighborhood of at least $1 million, which poses tough questions for a town that had to dip heavily into its savings account just to balance this year’s budget.
Last spring, the town identified major problems at the pool and decided to start setting aside money for a possible renovation or full-on replacement. Since then, Charles Hartgrove, town manager, said they’ve been working with Doug Aurund, of Siska Aurund, a landscape architectural firm based in Tidewater, who is also the original, early 1990s designer of the pool, to identify possible long-term solutions. Current options include renovation and expansion of the existing pool or new construction altogether.
“We’re just trying to get a baseline of things that we can bring forward as a staff to Parks and Rec and council,” Hartgrove said.
Town council voted last year to set aside $100,000 in the capital improvement plan, funding repeated in this year’s budget for a full, on-hand amount of $200,000.
Though the current pool is fully operational, Hartgrove said that a steady stream of maintenance costs have warranted taking a deeper look at whether continuing to fix problems as they emerge is sustainable.
The most prominent problem, and one that kicked off the initial talks concerning a possible replacement of the pool, was a mysterious leak. Hartgrove said the pool continues to lose water, but they’ve been working with contractors to fix what they can.
“Just like anything that’s got that type of age on it, the best analogy I can give is it’s like an old car – you have to decide at some point, do you replace the transmission and engine and keep running the car for a long time or do you finally bite the bullet and go buy another used car or a new car altogether?” Hartgrove said. “And I think that’s where we’re at with the pool.”
Pool future in doubt?
The other, rather obvious, decision the town’s elected officials and the greater community will have to make is: Does Ashland continue operating a pool?
“That’s not a forgone conclusion,” Hartgrove said. “I’ve not heard a lot of feedback that leads me in that direction, but that’s definitely something the community needs to discuss and that council needs to discuss: if that’s a service they want to continue as part of our Parks and Rec program.”
Hartgrove has recommended to council assembling a “pool committee” comprised of community stakeholders, the town Parks and Recreation committee and anyone else in town with any expertise and who might want to help out, with the goal of having a final recommendation in six months to a year.
“Staff is not going to make a recommendation without clearly vetting this through the community and, ultimately, to town council,” he said.
Citizens will also have the chance to weigh in. Later this summer, the town will conduct a citizen survey – the first in three years – and Hartgrove hopes to tailor a questionaire concerning how the town should address the pool going forward.