Future Dives and Splashes at GMF Swimming Pool Could End

Rick Langenberg

The future opening of the Green Mountain Falls outdoor swimming facility, a highly popular and rare community asset, is under serious review by elected leaders.

And the pool’s future opening could be determined by the success of a sponsorship/donation  campaign, aimed at providing extra money to operate the facility without forcing the town to leak red ink. The trustees plan to evaluate a variety of options regarding the future of the local pool, with probable action taken in early 2023.  Another possibility mulled is  forming a partnership with the Woodland Aquatic Center in Woodland Park, or researching other related partnerships, such as working with the Red Cross or other emergency service organizations.

Or can the pool facility be used more for private parties and community events?

At issue is the continual deficit the pool facility continues to accumulate, along with facing regular maintenance challenges.  No matter what option town leaders have devised in the past, such as even contracting the facility out to outside companies, the pool, which is only open for a few  months, continues to emerge as a financial albatross.

At a budget discussion last week, officials and the trustees concluded that the pool expenses could force the town to accumulate an annual deficit of between $30,000 and $40,000 for 2023.

The choices facing town leaders involve continuing to absorb this growing debt, look for outside funding or closely monitor their pool expenses. Labor costs, and particularly having paid-lifeguards, have been the main  issue for the town staff.

Mayor Todd Dixon last week spoke favorably about the possibility of trying to generate sponsorship and donation money for the facility. “I would like to have sponsors for the pool,” said Dixon, who admits he is concerned about adding to the town’s deficit.

“That seems easy to do.” Under the mayor’s plan, outside entities or people who participated in  the sponsorship pact would get promotional signs on the side of the facility for their financial help in boosting the prospects of a key community asset.

Other trustees, though, are worried about the growing costs for operating facility for such a limited time and want to look at other uses. “I am not a fan of the pool,” admitted Trustee Nick Donzello “I don’t know what the long-term solution of it is. It is a real tough cookie.”

But Dixon reminded Donzello that much public support exists locally for continuing the pool operations. If anything, many community members would like to see some type of year-round use of the facility, according to town leaders.

Veteran Trustee Katharine Guthrie stressed that the pool’s financial woes are nothing new. “The pool has always run at a deficit,” said Guthrie. In fact, she said the facility worked well in the past due to the massive work done by a former clerk, who helped in operating the facility on a daily basis during the summer.

She said the problem is that overall expenses, with labor costs, have grown.

Guthrie urged the trustees to think of ways to expand the uses at the facility. “I don’t think we have promoted the pool,” said the trustee, who cited private parties and other partnerships as a good fit.

A variety of ideas were thrown out at last week’s meeting such as forming a partnership with the Woodland Aquatic Center, since Woodland Park doesn’t have an outdoor pool, or using the pool for special training with the Red Cross or other emergency service groups.

“The more uses that don’t require a lot of staff time, the better,” said Guthrie.

The trustees didn’t make any formal decisions or recommendations regarding the pool’s future at last week’s regular meeting, But they hinted that they would like to take a shot at the outside sponsorship/donation plan.

In his monthly newsletter, Dixon stated that the town will be  better poised to evaluate its future with the pool facility in early 2023. “If approximately $32,000 could be raised by April 1, 2023 (through sponsorships and donations), then our budget would be  much more balanced.  If not, we would have to review our finances to make sure we don’t spend more than we take in,” stated the mayor.

The town trustees plan to approve an annual budget at their next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 13. The current proposed 2023 general fund is slated at a little more than $800,000, with a capital project fund of about $900,000. This is very similar to past years.

One bite that the town had to absorb was the loss of $20,000 in projected parking fees, since the trustees abandoned a previous plan for paid-parking  in the downtown area for visitors and hikers. This contract, with a national outside parking company, was canceled due to concerns expressed by residents and business operators.

The town’s 2023  budget scenario also calls for a reserve fund of $460,000, enough to fund operations for six months, in case of an emergency. Dixon, though, would like to increase these emergency monies to cover a year period.

But he admits that possibility will take time to achieve due to fiscal realities facing GMF.