I was as intrigued as anyone to read the brief story last week about a handful of residents trying to generate support for a municipal aquatic center in Saugerties — and I’m the guy that put that “focus group” together (my term for the informal gathering to which I invited a small number of interested residents). Robert Ford, who wrote the article, was eager to share the “news” of our meeting, and although I requested — both in writing and in person — that he wait until we have time to consider our ideas before presenting them to the public, he apparently decided that it was a story of great urgency. His reporting gives the impression that we have a design and estimated price tag for a facility. This is not the case. Had I granted an interview to Mr. Ford, I could have easily set the record straight. I wish to apologize to our town officials that they were not the first to hear our ideas; it was my intention.
I’m not a “swimmer” per se, but having raised two children in Saugerties I have always wondered if there was a reason that a pool was never built here. Last September I met with Town Supervisor, Greg Helsmoortel, and Parks Director, Greg Chorvas, and learned that a municipal facility could probably be sited within the Cantine Sports Complex if the community is behind it and money can be raised. Buoyed by that, I attended a two-day “Build-a-Pool” workshop in West Virginia put on by USA Swimming (the organization which sanctions all competitive swimming in the country, including the Olympic team). As it turns out, part of their mission is to promote the building of well-designed and well-programmed aquatic centers. I learned a lot about pool design, programming, economics and technology. I met reps from some of the best companies in the country that design and build pools and related equipment; I got contacts for all manner of pool professionals and swim educators; I came away with hundreds of related resources, including a vast Powerpoint presentation. And some of that Powerpoint information is what I shared with the focus group. This included various design and cost models, but they are not our designs and costs, just examples.
Now that the idea has been given public attention, I encourage all who are interested in the development of an aquatic center — particularly individuals with any professional expertise in aquatics or pool management — to email me so they can stay informed. This call is not restricted to Saugerties residents, because a great facility will attract users from all over the Hudson Valley and into the Catskills. Indeed, one could consider it a regional center in that respect. I just created a spiffy new email address for this expressed purpose: firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope to secure a place on the agenda of an upcoming Town Board meeting to present some initial ideas and seek formal support to explore the concept further. In the coming days USA Swimming will prepare (free of charge!) a 40-page Enterprise Plan based on local demographics, which will give us a proposed facility design and cost/revenue estimates scaled to the “market” of our area (note: this will be a proposal for a year-round facility with multiple pools — the only way to make this a long term revenue source for the town, as opposed to a seasonal money pit!). Once we have the Enterprise Plan, a more serious discussion can begin. And I certainly hope that the Times will be an integral part of the public discourse moving forward.