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Conway Swimming Pool Committee is hopeful pool will open in summer

CONWAY — The Conway Swimming Pool Committee has promised the 63-year-old town pool will reopen next summer, but it may need to raise another $250,000 first, with no definitive way yet to do that.

The reality of Conway residents taking a summer dip in the 2-acre swimming hole along Pumpkin Hollow Brook anytime soon depends on several factors, including whether the committee receives permits, hires a contractor and raises tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary.

The pool, built by residents in 1949, has continuously been run and cared for by a community of volunteers, the Conway Swimming Pool Committee. Currently, eight to 10 residents make up the private, nonprofit organization, which operates the pool independently of town government and relies on private donations and no tax dollars.

In the fall of 2010, the pool closed after damage was discovered to a pipe that runs through the center of the dam. Throughout the next year, volunteers attempted to make low-cost repairs, such as dredging and sleeving the pipe by placing a smaller pipe inside the original pipe. Although many volunteers have backgrounds in construction, engineering and law to help guide the committee, the committee found fixing the damage by relying on volunteer labor would not be enough to save the dam.

According to Craig Warner, a committee member, six local, state and federal agencies need to give their approval of the repairs. For the last year, Warner said, the group has been working to get the permits. When the committee will get the permits remains up in the air. Committee President James Recore could not be reached for comment this week.

Permitting agencies include the state Department of Dam Safety, Army Corps of Engineers, town Conservation Commission, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

“Most people are not aware that the process of working to prepare documents and awaiting responses from these agencies can take weeks and months for each one alone,” Warner said.

Warner said many of the current wetlands requirements did not exist when the pool was created decades ago.

The committee has taken its first steps to move through the bureaucracy by hiring Fuss & O’Neill, the engineering firm responsible for designing the repairs, dredging, beach reclamation and other improvements. The firm will also be responsible for the permitting and preparing and overseeing construction. Last week, Fuss & O’Neill did a full assessment of the pool, began survey work and produced a 20-page proposal with its scope of work. It also completed soil borings required for permitting.

The engineering, permitting, and project management services are expected to cost about $80,000, Warner said.

By the end of October, Warner said, the committee expects to have the preliminary cost estimates for repairs. He said construction costs are not yet known, but could exceed $250,000. This figure, however, is a committee estimate.

“We will have firm numbers that will allow us to ask for donations,” Warner said.

The money to pay for the engineer comes from Community Preservation funds. In May, residents approved $123,000 from the Community Preservation Fund for a conservation restriction on 5.81 acres surrounding the pond.

The money is also being used for future development, repairs and maintenance. The conservation restriction ensures that if the pool committee can no longer maintain the pool, the land will remain open for the public. Warner explained that “the use of CPA funds is appropriate because should the repairs fail, the land could be in danger of being sold as two building lots.”

“In the majority of CPA acquired conservation restrictions, the money goes to private individuals, generally for their own personal benefit,” Warner said. “In this unique situation, the funds will go into the organization’s operating account and can be used consistent with the pool’s purpose.”

The committee has not paid the engineer yet. The committee expects to receive the CPA money just before the Oct. 1 deadline to make its first payment to the engineer.

Warner said the plan is to raise the necessary money before hiring a contractor. Failing to raise the money to pay a contractor is not an option, Warner said.

“The committee and residents of Conway will make this happen and are committed to its success,” Warner said. “No one on the board of trustees for the pool is considering failure an option.”

Coming up short

Funding for the pool repairs is coming up short, however. In the past several years, annual donations had dropped off 75 percent. The committee had a bank balance of less than $3,000 to cover operating costs.

Warner would not state how much is in the committee’s bank account today.

“We have a small operating budget. It’s not public information,” Warner said.

Despite this, the committee insists it can survive on private donations to make the repairs and keep the pool running for another 50 years.

To pay for the maintenance costs and reconstruction, the committee expects to relying on local fundraising and donations from residents. So far, it has raised about $8,000 through private donations made by residents.

Warner said the committee hopes to raise all the funds necessary for construction from residents of Conway, both from small and large donations. The pool committee will also plan a fundraising event within the next few months.

When asked how the committee can raise up to $250,000 from roughly 1,899 residents, Warner said a “specific plan for raising funds will be developed once a better estimate of construction costs are known, probably within the next month.”

“I think only a resident of Conway can understand and appreciate the people here, the history and the resource we have. Conway residents care very, very deeply about their Conway pool and will do whatever they can to make sure it gets repaired and continues,” Warner continued. “We’re being straightforward with residents and letting them know our expectations. We’re working as hard as we can for next year. Residents are understanding and know we can only do what we can do.”

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