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Lawyer encourages Conway Selectboard to use trust for pool improvements

Submitted photo
An artistic rendering of the beach area plan for the Conway Swimming Pool.

Submitted photo An artistic rendering of the beach area plan for the Conway Swimming Pool.

CONWAY — A local lawyer is encouraging the Selectboard to use trust fund money to make the Conway swimming pool accessible to children with disabilities.

“In the case of the Conway Community Swimming Pool, it is the physical barrier of access to the water’s edge that has denied these children, for more than 50 years, the ability to be part of one of the best things available in Conway,” said Thomas Lesser, in a Feb. 19 letter to the Selectboard.

Lesser, a Conway resident, is an attorney with Lesser, Newman and Nasser, LLP, a Northampton law firm.

Lesser’s advice runs counter to that of the town’s attorney, John Fitzgibbons, who told the Selectboard the pool would be an inappropriate use of the M&M Germain Trust.

The Conway Community Swimming Pool Committee Inc., the private nonprofit that operates the pool, requested the Selectboard provide $235,000 from the trust for accessibility improvements to the swimming hole.

The trust fund is used at the discretion of the Selectboard for the rehabilitation of needy handicapped children and for college scholarships. The trust fund has a balance of $771,162, of which $386,010 is expendable interest.

Selectboard Chairman John O’Rourke said before the board takes a vote, it wants to gauge the interest of residents at a special town meeting on March 18.

In addition, both Lesser and Fitzgibbons have requested an interpretation from the state attorney general on whether the trust can be used for the pool accessibility improvements.

The town swimming hole has been closed since the fall of 2010 when the pool committee discovered significant bypass and sinkhole issues with the earthen dam that impounds Pumpkin Hollow Brook.

The pool committee needs to raise $193,000 for the pool to open by the summer of 2014. That money would cover dam work, dredging and beach replenishment.

Another $235,000 optional expenditure would pay for handicapped parking, grading, accessible walkways, and water accessible platforms and docks.

Lesser pushed the Selectboard to tap into the trust because the pool has not been accessible to individuals with disabilities since its inception in 1963 due to a steep grade that makes it difficult for people to get from the parking lot to the beach by wheelchair or crutches.

“This is a huge loss for disabled children in Conway since the pool area is the most popular summer recreation area in the town,” Lesser said.

Lesser noted that the trust defines rehabilitation as restoring someone to normal life. In Conway, the normal life of a child includes swimming at the pool with their friends, Lesser said.

The proposed improvements include specially designed accessible platforms, docks, and transfer areas at the water level. Creating an accessible parking lot and walking paths with a grade sturdy enough to allow wheelchair use requires adding retaining walls, grading a new parking lot and removing trees as proposed by the pool committee.

Lesser said the accessible platforms and docks would be of no use without money to re-grade the steep hill.

“It should be emphasized that the Conway Community Swimming Pool Inc. is not asking the trust for any funds for professional services, permit fees, dam repairs, dredging of the pond, or roadways,” Lesser said. “The only funds requested are those directly related to making the area accessible for needy disabled children.

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

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