St. Albans City and Town officials are pitching a plan for a new municipal pool.
Construction could begin next spring. It’s expected to be completed sometime before the 2021 swimming season, according to a press release from the two municipalities.
The price tag for the recreational project is an estimated $5.5 million, which will be split between the city and town, St. Albans City Manager Dominic Cloud said. Residents will vote on funding proposals on Town Meeting Day in March.
Cloud said the project is about making St. Albans an attractive, fun and safe area to live in.
“It speaks to community vitality, attracting new families, and also disadvantaged youth and providing alternatives that are positive alternatives,” Cloud said.
Officials are planning to install the new pool at the Hard’ack Recreation Area. It would replace a municipal pool at the St. Albans City School that was built with an expected 25 year lifespan — 40 years ago.
The project proposal allocates some funding to remove the existing pool and restore the land at the school to what was there before.
The new pool will be more accessible for older and disabled swimmers, and will allow residents to swim year round, according to Cloud. An inflatable dome will cover the pool in spring, winter and fall.
Hard’ack is located just outside the city and is owned by the town. Cloud said the idea for a jointly funded project came about “naturally” as conversations for the project have been ongoing over the last 18 months.
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“Many communities across the state with cities which are surrounded by towns sometimes have a hard time working well together,” Cloud said. “Our communities were looking for a flagship collaborative project that we could do together and this project resonated with a lot of folks.”
Cloud said the current pool is in a dense neighborhood, which makes it easy to get to for many residents. A key tenet for the project is to continue to attract young people to the pool.
The municipalities plan to run a new “aqua van” in the summer to drive kids to and from the pool for free — part of a strategy to keep young people coming to the pool despite the fact that it will be located on top of a hill. Cloud said the van will also have a bike rack, so kids can bring their bikes and ride down the hill back home.
Free transportation “came naturally out of the design process,” Cloud said.
Hard’ack is already a popular outdoor recreation destination in town, with hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking and snowshoeing trails, as well as downhill skiing and sledding sites. A ski lodge is already under construction at Hard’ack to support youth using the trails and hills.
“We looked at a lot of sites in the community and Hard’ack rose to the top because there is so much synergy with other recreational activities,” St. Albans Mayor Tim Smith said in a press release.
Cloud said the municipalities do not have enough information yet to determine what the pool entry fees should be to offset costs.
The plans have been widely circulated on social media, and the initial responses from residents have been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“Pools are community builders,” Cloud said. “Pools are a place where people from all walks of life, literally, get in the water together.”
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