By Jonathan Phelps
---- — HAMILTON — A consultant looking into options for the Patton Park pool is recommending the town build a new one.
“It is time to start over,” Timothy Sheehan, senior project manager for Aquatics Group in Peabody, told selectmen Monday night. “It would be less expensive to build a new pool in that location than it would be to retrofit it.”
The current pool is more than 50 years old and has a variety of problems, including leaks, outdated equipment, lack of space and code issues, he said. The group was hired to look at preliminary designs and costs for refurbishing the current pool or replacing it.
Most pools last only 25 to 30 years, Sheehan said.
“You’ve done a great job stretching it out, but it’s time to look at a new one,” he said. “You are at the point where you’re throwing good money at bad.”
Sheehan presented three options, costing between $2 million and $3 million, to replace the pool, based on information previously gathered by a committee formed by selectmen.
“The vision is to upgrade the facility and start to draw families into this space,” Sheehan said.
The most basic option would be a six-lane lap pool with a separate kiddie pool. The most elaborate would be L-shaped, with a lap pool at one end and a zero-entry pool at the other, meaning it would slope gradually, without stairs, making it appropriate for children and the disabled. It would also have a separate kiddie pool and a splash pad with play structures for children.
All options include replacing the bathhouse and decking, increasing seating areas and improving the parking lot. The higher estimate also includes a concession stand.
“Having a zero-entry pool really opens it up for a variety of age groups,” Sheehan said, estimating that such an upgrade could triple the number of uses, based on similar projects elsewhere.
Hamilton-Wenham Recreation Director Sean Timmons said about 250 to 300 people use the pool every day in the summer.
The plans call for tearing down and building a new bathhouse, because new building codes would kick in if improvements were made, he said. A major issue is the septic system, which would have to be upgraded to accommodate some of the pool options. Sheehan recommended improvements to the septic in case there is a need for future expansion.
Sheehan said all the options are preliminary, and the group would be getting input from town boards and the public moving forward. He said it is feasible to complete the project in phases, but less expensive to do it all at once.
Selectman Marc Johnson said during an interview that the project will likely go before voters at Town Meeting in November.
Town officials aren’t looking to build a “water world,” he said.
“We want to make sure we understand the programs this pool is designed for,” Johnson said, citing senior citizen swims, summer camps, swim teams and families. “We don’t need an overly elaborate pool. We just need something that is appropriate for the programs.”
He said the pool could be partially funded by Community Preservation funds. The town of Wenham could also contribute in some way for its participation in the summer programs.
Selectman Jeffrey Hubbard cautioned that residents may have little appetite for the project.
“The people that I talk to couldn’t be any louder and clearer that the size and scale, and therefore cost, of this project far exceeds anybody’s interest in doing this project,” he said.
Johnson said not all board members and residents share that position, and the town will continue to have meetings to prepare for Town Meeting on Nov. 4.
The next meeting on the pool will take place Monday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. at Hamilton-Wenham Library.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.