, Salem, MA

Local News

April 3, 2014

Pool, Pirie property top topics at debate

HAMILTON — The town pool at Patton Park and Aquila Farm were the dominating issues during a spirited debate between selectman candidates Jeff Hubbard and Shawn Farrell yesterday morning at the town senior center.

Special Town Meeting in November voted down a proposal to replace the pool, while voters at a June Special Town Meeting chose not to buy the farm, also known as the Pirie Property, for senior housing and open space.

Hubbard, who’s seeking his second term as selectman, had voted against borrowing $3.9 million to purchase the 86-acre Bay Road property and argued yesterday it was too costly a project for the town to undertake. He said the proposal, combined with $2.5 million if voters had chosen to replace the town pool, would have saddled the town with another $2,200 in debt per household per year.

He said everyone in town wants the pool, but it’s not a necessity — there are several local facilities for residents or students to swim at instead. If the town replaces or upgrades the pool, and Hubbard hopes it happens, the project should be paid for with existing resources, he said. He added that residents who offered expert engineering input on the project were rebuffed by the town manager.

Making his first bid for office, Farrell has been part of community projects such as the new playground at Patton Park. While sharing concerns about both projects, he said he would have supported the Pirie land purchase and the original pool proposal. He agreed that in light of further study and recent bids, the pool project is “way out of the [town’s] price range.”

Farrell said it’s not feasible to keep or repair the existing facility, and further efforts should be made to find a more affordable solution.

He said the Pirie Property project could have provided much-needed affordable housing for seniors being taxed out of town.

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