Saugerties aquatic center unlikely to get taxpayer funds

Alex Rappoport presenting to the Saugerties town board. (photo by Robert Ford)

A local man and his group of supporters want to build an aquatic fitness center at the Cantine Memorial Complex. It appears they will have to do so without taxpayer money.

That was the message members of the town board gave Alex Rappoport, who has proposed a three-pool aquatic fitness center at Cantine field.


Rappoport, who’s also running for a seat on the school board, told the town board’s  April 19 meeting that he envisions a public-private partnership building the facility, and then the town running it, much like it does the Kiwanis Ice Arena. A 501(c)3 non-profit would be created, or an existing one used as a conduit, making all donations tax-deductible and applying for grants.

“Publicly funded regional facilities [pools] have come and gone,” Rappoport conceded. “They are expensive to maintain … and are money losers.” However, he said, an aquatic fitness center run under a membership system would be financially viable.

The indoor year-round membership facility he envisaged would have three pools: a lap pool for those who want to swim laps, a warm communal pool for non-lap swimmers, and a warm therapy pool. The facility would be a place where competition swimming and water-sports activities could be held, and there would be workout rooms, he said. He was describing a facility much like the ones at Bard College and at SUNY New Paltz.

Rappoport said he sees a building much like the nearby Kiwanis Ice Rink but more high-tech. He gave no cost estimate for building it.

The three pools would consist of three pre-made stainless steel shells. “This would a town-owned and -operated facility, or could be under private ownership,” Rappoport said.

Town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel said that he’d support such a facility at Cantine, “but my only objection would be funding from the town.” Helsmoortel felt no town taxpayer money should be used.

“At some point,” Rappoport responded, “this will need some public funding …. We have to buy water and it’s expensive.”

Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton, who teaches school in the Taconic school system, said a company had come in and built a pool for that school district. Over the years, every kid in that school system has learned how to swim there.

Thornton, along with fellow board members Bill Schirmer, Fred Costello and Jim Bruno, said they would support a facility at Cantine, but Schirmer, like Helsmoortel, conceded that “it would be nearly impossible” to put town money toward the project.

Over the last 20 years, town officials have heard proposals to build a community pool at Cantine. Each one has fallen by the wayside.

Greg Chorvas, who runs the Cantine complex, said there wasn’t much room left there for a facility. If Rappoport and his group could raise the funds to build it, though, he said he would find room at the complex for the facility. “This would take up a large chunk of land,” Chorvas said. “And if the money is there we would do everything we could to make it work. It’s a worthwhile project.”

Rappoport said he believed the town would have to run the facility so that any income could be used for improving it.

He said he would keep the board and the community informed as the project progresses through its planning and fundraising stages.

There are 2 comments

  1. Alex Rappoport

    Almost every quote attributed to me is incorrect. to clarify:

    paragraph 4: I referenced publicly funded SEASONAL facilities, not “regional” ones. Seasonal outdoor pools in the northeast will operate at a deficit in perpetuity because they can only generate revenue three months out of the year.

    paragraph 7: I never suggested private ownership of a facility on Town property, just private funding and a public/private partnership to develop it.

    paragraph 9: Water is not expensive. All I can make of this is that the reporter confused my comment about clients of the facility needing to pay for water TIME, meaning there is no way to cover the operating costs of an aquatic center by letting people use it for free. “No free water” is a mantra of USA Swimming’s Facilities Development folks.

  2. Stephanie B.

    Thank you for the clarifications, Alex. It’s so frustrating to be mis-quoted, and unhelpful to your efforts. Good luck.

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