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Conway pool panel raises $100K in 4 weeks

CONWAY — In just four weeks, the Conway Swimming Pool Committee has raised $100,000 from private donations to repair the beloved swimming hole off Whately Road.

The pool committee has raised all but $87,000 of the $563,000 total project.

With a resounding applause, 167 residents at the special town meeting on Monday overwhelmingly and unhesitatingly gave the Selectboard their blessing to allocate $235,000 from the M&M Germain Trust Fund to the pool committee to cover costs associated with optional accessibility improvements.

“We are sure to meet the total funding goal with the continued support of the community, all without tax dollars,” Craig Warner, pool committee secretary said.

With its purse growing bigger, the pool committee plans to start construction on July 1 to reopen the pool by the summer of 2014.

It has submitted the required seven state permits, which are currently under review by the different regulatory agencies.

“As long as the government agencies cooperate, we’re almost there,” said Warner.

The total project cost breaks down to $328,000 for permitting and repair work and $235,000 for accessibility improvements. Before its fundraising launch on Feb. 13, the pool group had raised $136,000 by selling a conservation restriction to the town for $123,000 and raising the remaining $13,000 in private donations.

Learning of the pool repairs’ big price, a volunteer group of Conway residents stepped up to raise money. They have knocked on doors and planned events, some working as much as eight hours a day. One upcoming event is a jazz brunch on March 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. hosted by Gisele Litalien and Lisa Clark at 6 Rand Road, Shelburne Falls. Conway residents Andy Jaffe and Marty Jaffe will play the piano and bass. For more information, call 413-369-4778.

The news came as a relief as the townspeople have anxiously been waiting for the reopening of the pool since its closure in the fall of 2010. Bypass and sinkhole issues with the earthen dam have been a blight on the summer cool-down spot, causing the need for dam repairs, beach replenishing and dredging.

The committee has run the man-made swimming hole since 1950. The committee operates the pool independently of town government and relies on private donations and not tax dollars and it intends to keep it that way. Swimming at your own risk will still be the rule at the pool under the proposed changes. The pool would still be private and under the pool volunteers’ jurisdiction.

The Selectboard is the only one with the discretion to spend the Germain Trust, which Mark and Mildred Boice Germain established to help pay for the rehabilitation of handicapped children and scholarships.

The Selectboard already got approval from the attorney general. In an effort to include the townspeople, it sought the opinion of the residents in a straw poll at Monday’s special town meeting. The Selectboard will still need to have an official vote on the allocation.

As of Dec. 31, 2012, the trust fund is valued at $790,585 with an expendable balance of $381,648.

The money from the Germain Fund would be used to pay for accessibility improvements. Since its inception, the pool has been inaccessible to many due to steep grades, uneven terrain, obstacles, and soft footing. The accessibility improvements would provide people confined to a wheelchair or those with injuries a way to enter the water and beach.

Proposed accessibility improvements include specially designed accessible platforms, docks, and transfer areas at the water level. Warner said the slopes along the beach area need to be graded to acceptable levels for pathways and the beach area needs to be reduced from its current 17 percent to a 9 percent grade. Walkways would need to have hard packed surfaces such as stone dust to provide solid footing and wheelchair travel.

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