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Conway lawyer: trust can’t be used for pool

CONWAY — The town attorney said the M&M Germain Trust Fund cannot be used to fund $235,000 in beach accessibility improvements at the Conway Swimming Pool.

“The fund was created for the rehabilitation of needy handicapped children and college scholarships. In my opinion, this fund cannot be used for the pool purposes. Without a court order allowing this expenditure, the fund can’t be used for the requested project,” wrote John Fitzgibbons, the town’s lawyer, to the Board of Selectmen.

The swimming hole off Whately Road has been closed since the fall of 2010 when the Conway Swimming Pool Committee — the private nonprofit that operates the pool — discovered significant bypass and sinkhole issues with the earthen dam that impounds Pumpkin Hollow Brook.

Since that time, the pool committee has hired an engineer, Fuss & O’Neill, to develop plans on how to fix the pool.

According to the pool committee’s project proposal, the committee is hoping to raise $193,000 in four months to pay for necessary repair work to get the pool running again. Repairs include dam work, dredging and beach replenishment.

The pool committee also wants another $235,000 to pay for optional accessibility improvements. In December, the pool committee turned to the selectmen and requested they set aside money from the M&M Germain Fund to cover the costs of accessibility improvements to the pool.

To date, the trust fund had a balance of $771,162, of which $386,010 is expendable interest.

The pool committee believes the accessibility improvements is the right thing to do in making the pool accessible to all residents.

“The Conway Swimming Pool has been inaccessible to many, excluding those in good physical condition, due to steep grades, uneven terrain, obstacles, and soft footing (sand),” said Craig Warner, the committee secretary. “The committee’s primary goal is to provide a way to enter the water for people confined to a wheelchair, or those with injuries, disabilities, or simply in less-than-perfect health.”

The improvements would include specially designed accessible platforms, docks, and transfer areas at the water level. To accomplish this, changes would be made to the entire site, Warner said.

At the parking level of the site, changes such as re-grading and paving parking areas, designating parking spaces, platforms for accessible port-a-johns, and accessible walkways would be created. Throughout the grass and beach areas, the slopes would be graded to acceptable levels for pathways and the beach area would be reduced from its current 17 percent to a 9 percent grade.

To provide for solid footing and wheelchair travel, walkways would need to have hard packed surfaces such as stone dust.

Though many residents present at the pool committee’s meeting held this month supported using the trust fund money, the Selectboard is relying on the town attorney’s advice.

“I was disappointed when I heard the opinion of town counsel,” Selectboard member Rick Bean said. “But the town counsel is there for the best interest of the town. Although ultimately we’re the ones to make the decision, we can’t ignore (town counsel advice).”

If the pool committee can’t obtain the funds for the accessibility improvements, it will just complete the repair work to get the pool running.

“Our number one goal is to get the pool up and running,” Pool Committee James Recore said. “We have a perfectly good pool up until now. We can return at least to that.”

The pool committee’s hopes are not dashed yet.

The Selectboard plans to arrange a meeting between the pool committee and Fitzgibbons. At that meeting, the pool committee would explain the project and request Fitzgibbons to petition Probate Court to get further interpretation on the issue.

The town would then seek public input from residents. This would happen at a special town meeting scheduled for March 18.

“If the decision is positive, I wouldn’t want the Selectboard to be the only decision maker on the project. I’d like the input of residents,” Selectboard Chairman John O’Rourke said.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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