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November 1, 2013

Pool project up for vote Monday

Is it 'waterworld' or a worthwhile investment?

HAMILTON — Town Meeting voters will be asked next week to spend $2.5 million to replace the Patton Park swimming pool.

The projects calls for a six-lane lap pool with a zero-entry swim area, which allows people to enter the water by walking down a gradual slope, similar to a beach. There would also be a kiddie pool, a new bathhouse, increased deck space and seating, a lifeguard station and reconfigured parking.

Part of the cost will include reconstructing the septic system to handle the increased use.

The project has generated some controversy, however, with those opposed saying it is too big and too expensive, referring to it as an extravagant “waterworld.”

If approved, the project would be paid for with community preservation funds, said Sean Timmons, the Hamilton-Wenham recreation director.

“The $2.5 million includes everything, not just the pool,” Timmons said.

The Special Town Meeting will take place Monday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Hamilton-Wenham High School auditorium.

The current pool was built in 1961 by the members of the American Legion and has a variety of drawbacks, including leaks, outdated equipment, lack of space and code issues, according to Weston & Sampson Aquatics Group, a firm hired to oversee the project. It is undersized for the needs of the community, said Timothy Sheehan, senior project manager for the Aquatics Group.

Sheehan said it would less expensive to build a new pool than to renovate and retrofit the old pool. He estimated that a new pool would draw triple the number of users, based on similar projects elsewhere.

Bob Gray of Enough is Enough, a fiscal watchdog group, said the community preservation money would be better spent on expanding the senior center or making Town Hall handicapped-accessible.

“The taxpayers will be asked if they want to spend this kind of money on a recreation facility that will be used for approximately eight to 10 weeks of the year,” he wrote in a letter.

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