By Rachel Dunphy
Swimmers in town might be excited to learn that the Shelburne Selectboard will explore a proposal to build a community pool at the Shelburne Health & Fitness complex. Rayne Herzog, the general manager of the athletic club, presented preliminary research on the project at the December Selectboard meeting where members agreed to consider the idea but that more research needs to be done before any decisions could be made.
Herzog has been thinking about building a Shelburne pool since 1998 when he explored the idea while working at the Shelburne Athletic Club at Shelburne Commons. At the time there was no funding available, so he didn’t pursue the project. Yet over the years people continued to ask him about building a pool in Shelburne. “I always kept it in the back of my mind,” Herzog said, and four months ago he took a serious look at the idea.
Based on his own calculations and the advice of a local contractor, Mike Liker, Herzog estimated the initial construction of the pool would cost the town about $3 million. He didn’t go into detail on the operating cost of the facility, but said the expected revenue for membership and programming at the facility would cover the cost of maintenance, staffing, and power as well as generate an additional $68-70,000 of profit for the town.
The town has not made any commitments to the project or independently researched the project, and Betsy Cieplicki, Director of Parks & Recreation, stressed that if the town does choose to move forward, it will be a slow process.
Attendees at the Selectboard meeting brought up some major issues with the project, most importantly with the proposed location, field #2 at The Field House. Herzog suggested this location because it’s close to the town center, and it’s near other athletic facilities, namely The Field House and Shelburne Health & Fitness, which means much of the infrastructure needed to support the pool, including parking and sewage, is already available there. However, the field in question was built recently after a divisive political struggle. It is currently used for Rec programs which service hundreds of local children, and the town is still paying off the bonds on it.
“I know a lot of people would love a pool, but would a lot of people want to pay for a pool?” asked Cieplicki, who remains skeptical of the project’s fiscal feasibility. There are currently 105 capital projects in the new budget, she said, without even considering the pool. And in addition to the initial cost of construction, pursuing the project would mean committing to paying for maintenance and salaries for the forseeable future, and whether the pool’s revenue could support that is completely dependent on community interest.
Herzog estimates that the pool will initially sell at least 800 memberships based on the 780 signatures he collected on a petition of interest for the pool, but the town will need to do independent research on the amount of interest among Shelburne residents. “We know there’s a lot of support,” said Cieplicki, “but there’s a lot of research that still has to be done.”
Herzog’s ideas of the effect a community pool could have on the town inspire a renewed appreciation of community itself. He speaks of birthday parties and water therapy and overall kinship—it’s a reminder of the universal and restorative properties of water. This beautiful perhaps idealized vision could come to fruition with great effort, commitment, and patience.