Lucy Sweet, a lifeguard, speaks in support of the Warren outdoor pool at a Westbrook City Council meeting Monday. The June 1 meeting was the first in-person meeting since mid-March. Face coverings were required, councilors sat at desks 6 feet apart and the meeting had a cap of 50 attendees. Chance Viles / American Journal

WESTBROOK — After hearing strong support from residents, the City Council opted Monday to keep the swimming pool at the Warren outdoor recreation area and to add a small splash pad.

The public hearing, held June 1 at the Performing Arts Center, drew over 15 residents who spoke in support of keeping the pool and against a proposal to replace it with a splash pad. Numerous emails from residents were read by councilors in support of the pool.

“We grew up three sessions a day attending the pool because it was affordable for us to use,”  former Mayor Colleen Hilton told the council. “When this news came out I was devastated. It’s visions of urban renewal taking a golden asset and filling it in.”

Lucy Sweet, who works as a lifeguard at the pool, said the pool is an asset for the city.

“That pool is really good for the community and the families that go there, and a place for kids to learn to swim. I don’t think a splash pad is suitable for adults and seniors citizens,” Sweet said.

Pool improvements were planned as part of a larger project, scheduled for this year, to upgrade the surrounding park, but a committee on park renovations began looking at the popularity of splash pads and their efficiency when compared to swimming pools, according to Community Center Director Greg Post. 

The council unanimously decided to move forward with the original plan to improve the pool as part of the park upgrade, but to also add a smaller splash pad to the park.

“Sometimes we have to just be transparent and show our options, and listen and move forward from there,” said council President Gary Rairdon.

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.

Some at the meeting recalled days where lines to the pool stretched around the corner.

“I went down to that pool scared Monday mornings, because they filled it Sunday and it was freezing cold. It was part of my (childhood),” Rairdon said.

Community Center Director Greg Post talks about the splash pad. Chance Viles / American Journal

Even with the admission fees, the city pays out $52,000 for staff, lost water from leaks and evaporation, regular maintenance, chemicals and more, while a free splash pad would have cost the city about $6,000 yearly.

Residents argued that bringing swimming lessons back to the pool and increasing programming, like lane swims, would bring more patrons.

“We could do marketing, and have a trust to fund repairs and finance some families who cannot afford to go the pool,” resident Margaret Poulin said. “There is a lot we can do to get costs down and bring our numbers up.”

Sweet suggested a bigger sign be installed to make the pool known to more residents.

The pool will be closed this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

 

 

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