Westbrook’s public pool pulls in about $15,000 in admission fees each year. File photo

WESTBROOK — City councilors are looking for public input on a proposal to replace the outdoor swimming pool at the Warren outdoor recreation area with a “splash pad.”

“We understand what this area means to the city of Westbrook, which is why we are being thorough,” Community Center Director Greg Post told the Facilities and Streets Committee May 11.

The council will hold a public hearing on the proposal on June 1.

Children play at a city splash pad in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal

“It would be helpful for us to know what citizens feel about the change, or no change,” Anna Turcotte said, Ward 3 Councilor.

The pool was built in 1949 to replace a tank-type pool fresh water pool built in 1905 in the Presumpscot River, according to the Westbrook Historical Society. It was renovated in 1984.

About 2,800 visitors, or about 39 a day, made use of it last summer, Post said.

Pool improvements were planned as part of a larger project, scheduled for this year, to upgrade the surrounding park, but Post said a committee on park renovations began looking at the popularity of splash pads and how they are more efficient than swimming pools.

“We now have two options, upgrading the existing pool or replacing it,” Post said.

The pool would be filled in and the splash pad, a flat, non-slip surface with fountains that spew out water at varying intensities, would be put in its place. The splash pad would be large enough for different age groups to use at the same time, Post said. Seniors may be more interested in the misting area, for example, and toddlers could play in small fountain streams while older children and teens may be more attracted to more vigorous waterworks.

“It serves a wider audience, including special needs and people of all ages, toddlers to seniors,” Post said.

It would also be fun for non-swimmers, he said.

“With our current demographic, we serve a lot of low-income families and immigrants. Many can’t or don’t know how to swim, and this eliminates that potential for them not coming,” he said.

The splash pad could be open six months out of the year. It would require no daily maintenance, would turn off and on with motion censors and no lifeguards would be required.

The charge to use the pool, which is open for 10 weeks each summer, is $6 per adult and $3 per child and senior. Even with the admission fees, the city pays out $52,000 for staff, lost water from leaks and evaporation, regular maintenance, chemicals and more.

“This is the first year we used our fund balance to offset lost funds. Our aquatics deficits (between this pool and the indoor pool at the Community Center) are over $70,000 a year, and we have about $117,000 in fund balances available. Continuing under the platform we can sustain that loss for another year but in 2022 we will have $32,000 to offset a $70,000 deficit,” Post said.

City Council members will hold a public hearing during their meeting at 7 p.m. June 1 at Westbrook High School for residents to weigh in on the proposal.

 

 

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