Conway pool group to get handicap money

Selectboard OKs $235,000 in trust funds

CONWAY — If the town swimming pool is repaired by the summer of 2014, all residents, including those with disabilities, will be able to enjoy the cool pond water and shade of the hilltown’s trees.

The Selectboard voted this week to allocate up to $235,000 from the Mark Boice Germain and Mildred Boice Germain Trust to the Conway Community Swimming Pool Inc. — a group of volunteers that manages the pool privately.

The trust funds were one hurdle the pool committee had to jump to raise the nearly half million it seeks to repair the 63-year-old pool’s dam and to make other improvements at the same time.

“It’s been a long road, but we’ve taken another big step,” said Pool Committee President James Recore. “Things are going so well we’re kind of getting nervous.”

To date, the pool committee needs $80,000 in private donations to reach its $563,000 goal.

The amount to be raised has dropped quickly and significantly by $107,000 over the past seven weeks since the pool group launched its fundraising campaign in February.

The trust money would specifically be used to pay for accessibility improvements at the man-made swimming hole. The pool improvements meet the requirements of the trust fund, which was established for college scholarships and accessibility improvements.

Since the pool committee built the pool off Whately Road in 1950, it has not been fully accessible to people with disabilities due to its steep grades, uneven terrain, obstacles, and soft footing.

The pool has been closed since the fall of 2010, when the committee discovered bypass issues with the earthen dam that have caused the need for dam repairs, beach replenishing and dredging.

The trust money is separate from the $328,000 price tag for permitting and repair work, which the pool volunteers are raising through private donations. But the pool committee sees this as its opportunity to finally make the site accessible to all Conway residents.

With the new money, the committee would create specially designed accessible platforms, docks, and transfer areas at the water level. The beach would also be graded from its current 17 percent to a 9 percent grade.

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

Three conditions on money

The Selectboard, however, set three conditions before it actually hands over the cash:

∎ that the $328,000 for engineering and permitting must be collected,

∎ that the funds for accessibility improvements be allocated as bills and presented to the Selectboard, and

∎ that before any accessibility improvement funds are allocated, an agreement must be reached by the Selectboard and pool committee that any sale, transfer or change in use of the pool property, including any limitation of access to the property to less than all residents of Conway, would result in the immediate repayment in full of the trust fund money plus interest.

Recore said the conditions are reasonable.

“(The Selectboard) are not asking for anything that seems out of the ordinary,” Recore said.

The pool committee originally requested the trust money on Dec. 3.

In making its decision, the Selectboard considered the opinions of Town Counsel Jack Fitz-Gibbon and the state Attorney General’s Office, who both advised the pool accessibility improvements would be an appropriate use of the trust fund. The opinion of Northampton attorney, Tom Lesser, a Conway resident, also heavily influenced the decision to spend the money.

The Selectboard also considered the opinion of the townspeople, who overwhelmingly backed the Selectboard’s use of the money for the pool at a special town meeting on March 18.

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

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