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Mayor & Park Board President Divided over Glenwood Pool's Future

Sep 9, 2016

Glenwood Pool in Macomb dates back to the 1940s and Park Board John Hemingway said the pool is showing its age. The pool was open for just a few weeks this summer because of various problems, and he questions whether it's worth putting more money into repairs to keep Glenwood going. 

"Personally -- and I'm speaking only personally now, not on behalf of the board -- I think that pool has seen its last days," Hemingway said. "I'm going to guess we had in the neighborhood of $45,000 to $50,000 worth of repairs this year. And I'm not sure how much longer we can continue to justify spending that amount of money." 

Hemingway emphasized the repair costs were split between the city, which owns Glenwood Pool, and the park district, which manages it. The pact for that partnership expires at the end of the year and Hemingway said a number of contractual points will need to be worked out as the two sides negotiate a new deal. 

Hemingway said the park district believes swimming is important and should be offered in a community the size of Macomb. He said the park district and city have been searching for solutions, and a couple years ago an architectural firm created plans for building an outdoor pool and accompanying recreation center. 

"The ticket price on that was $13.6 million and it would have required a referendum," Hemingway said.  "We were working together at that time with the city, very much as equal partners. The city decided that $13.6 million was a little bit rich."

Hemingway said the project was redesigned to include only a pool, but that too would have proved expensive -- an estimated $6 million. He said the Community First project then started coming together and it was decided to see how that played out.

He said the concept designs for the Community First project include an indoor pool. However, the park board recently decided to pull out of Community First so it could concentrate the district's resources on other projects. If Community First comes to fruition, he questions whether the town would want an outdoor aquatic facility in addition to the indoor pool.

Despite the Park District’s decision to leave the Community First partnership, the city remains very much involved along with McDonough District Hospital, the McDonough County YMCA and the Macomb School District. But Mayor Mike Inman said any potential new structure as part of that project is still a long ways off.

In the meantime, Glenwood Pool is the only public pool in town and Mayor Inman said he would like to see it open again next summer – and on time.

“The folks that have a real interest in making sure [the pool] is part of our community going forward, don’t think this is a luxury. It’s a basic service like so many other things the park district needs to be offering as part of their normal programming,” Inman said.

The pool opened about a month later than usual this year due to delays associated with getting the pool up to state code. Last fall, a routine state inspection revealed problems with the pool’s filtration and drainage systems and chlorinator.

According to the city and park district’s agreement, if at any time repair work is expected to exceed $75,000, the two entities could decide to instead close the pool permanently.

Inman said the maintenance work required at the start of summer came in well under that ceiling.

“Part of the expense was not an age issue, or an antiquated issue. It was to bring the pool up to current code,” Inman said. “Much like much of our infrastructure needs to be periodically updated. It would be naïve to think that the pool is just going to sit and get opened every year and there wouldn’t be ongoing maintenance that would have to be done or changes that would have to be addressed to keep it operation regardless of its age.”

He said a town the size of Macomb, should have a public pool and that it’s a quality of life issue.

Inman said the city was not involved in the Park District’s decision to close the pool early after further maintenance problems popped up after just a couple weeks.

Inman said he was out of town and has not been briefed on the problems. (Editor's Note: The interview with Inman was conducted a couple weeks ago.  He said he has since been brought up to date on the problems and agrees with the park district's decision to shut down the pool for the season).

Inman is optimistic the pool's problems can be fixed and that the pool is not too old to be used. And looking forward, Inman would like the pool to be properly winterized and brought back online in the spring.

“I would just tell you there seems to be a commonality between the pool being winterized and then when it opens next spring some things are deemed to be problematic. So we would be happy to offer our technical expertise with our waste water treatment manager to assist in that winterization if that would result in some positives moving forward,” Inman said.

The facility’s ownership history is fuzzy. Mayor Inman said years ago lawyers for both parties tried to track down the answer. Instead of allowing the question to go to court, the city and park district decided to share the responsibility.

“It is a public structure that all the taxpayers in this city support,” Inman said. “We both have an obligation to the people we serve, since it’s the same people. So let’s work together. Who cares at the end of the day who owns it?”

Mayor Inman said the city has every intention of continuing its agreement with the park district to manage Glenwood Pool in order to have the facility open next summer.