Strasburg Council still considering closing town pool

Strasburg Town Pool sits idle on this November 1 photo along Park Road. The Strasburg Town Council decided at its work session Tuesday night that it would further investigate closing the town pool for the summer of 2017.Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – The Strasburg Town Council decided at its work session Tuesday night that it would further investigate closing the town pool for the summer of 2017 in light of heavy financial losses in the past few years.

The decision came following a report that the pool lost $90,172 during the summer of 2016, $50,546 in 2015, and $81,712 in 2014, according to information provided by Finance Director Dottie Mullins.

Town Manager Ryan Spitzer said the pool would close for the summer and reallocate its operating budget to renovating its facilities for the summer of 2018.

“The reason for shutting down the pool is because we could use that money toward the upgrades,” he said. “If we keep the pool open for three, four weeks, we would still have to put in a majority of the funds that we would use to keep the pool open… If we shut down the pool for the entire season we’d have about $170,000 we can put back into the pool.”

Present at the meeting, Ira Rae Crisman, who coaches the Strasburg swim team and is a former manager of the pool, urged the council to consider keeping the pool open. She said the closure would put the swim team into a bind, noting the value it offers the young swimmers.

“We all know that pools don’t make money, they never have, but they’re here as a community service,” she said. “… Our team is a way for the children to keep active when school is not in session. It builds character, it builds relationships, and it keeps our youth exercising and active.”

Although Crisman can opt to host the practices at the Signal Knob Recreation Center, it will put a steep burden on the swimmers’ parents. She said the pool charges $15 per hour per lane to rent out. Her team practices for two and a half hours at a time, four days a week, and spreads across six lanes.

However, when the pool closed for a week this summer, the team only rented three lanes to keep costs down.

Part of the rationale offered by council members for closing the pool for the 2017 summer season is that Shenandoah County Public Schools will have a shortened summer schedule next year. Schools let out June 13, 2017, but they reconvene on a new academic calendar Aug. 7. It’s a switch that takes the school district off of an academic calendar that began after Labor Day.

In light of the shortened summer season, Councilwoman Shirley Maddox offered the idea of taking the roughly $6,000 it would cost for the team to rent out lanes at Signal Knob from the renovation budget to take the load off of the swimmers’ parents.

However, other council members worried the $170,000 might already be a thin budget over a short time span to complete the renovations, which could include adding a splash park and shaded section to the pool to lure more traffic.

Thinking bigger than most the other council members, Councilman Seth Newman said the town could even consider securing federal grants, and/or taking an extra summer to undergo massive reconstruction to make the pool an attraction for residents from as far away as Woodstock or Front Royal.

“Is this update an update that we’re going to do that’s going to bring us into that 25 years, or is this just an update that’s going to get us by the next 10 years until we have to have the same conversation?” he said. “Personally, I would love to be grandiose and go for a very nice update that’s going to be spectacular, and going to be big.”

Following the discussion, the council decided to send the work back to the Recreation, Parks and Trails Committee to start negotiating prices with Signal Knob Recreation Center and coming up with solid dollar amounts for the renovations.

The committee meeting date will be announced at the regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com.