It's well known the borough's Memorial Park municipal pool is old and in dire need of repair. The pool had some pipe troubles last year, which forced the borough to "scramble" to get them fixed, as Councilman Bruce Harris put it.
On Tuesday at Borough Hall, residents were given the opportunity at a public forum to discuss with the borough's Municipal Pool/Memorial Park Advisory Committee a survey sent to community members that asked them how they felt the pool should be repaired.
Surveys were sent to every borough household, and 1,021—39 percent—were returned. By releasing the survey, committee members hoped to get a sense of whether the community supported the old pool or a larger version of it. They also wanted to know whether Chatham residents felt they should make improvements to the pool or consider building an entirely new one.
Committee Chairman Gerald Malanga said he was pleased with the survey results.
"There are very small differences when you talk about support for the options and how they should be funded," he said.
He said the survey indicated a bigger pool would get more membership, and also said more people were interested in a more elaborate pool.
The survey also indicated that a greater percentage of residents at low and medium income levels thought the pool was valuable.
"If you try to put the survey down into simple words, it looks like a majority of the people in this town have used the pool initially and then moved on to something else," he said.
The survey, he said, also indicated that even though people at lower income levels thought the pool was valuable, all residents generally considered a town pool an asset.
One resident asked the committee during the public discussion period if the borough should even be considering spending money for a pool during economic hard times.
"Where is our sense of proportion? he asked. "The questionaire never included the option to cut the pool out completely. What has happened that a pool became more important than education whose funds will have be cut to fund a pool?"
"Is there a question in there?" Malanga asked.
The resident reponded by saying he wanted to know why the option of eliminating the pool wasn't asked in the survey.
"If the community feels that not having a pool is fine, we'd look at that," Malanga said. "I've never been in a town that didn't have a pool. That's not what you expect from town services. It would be like saying we don't want a town library. The mandate of the committee was to optimize the facility."
The resident said with some disgust that he would pave over the pool and returned to his chair.
Another resident asked if the committee was able to determine if there were people who, in theory, wanted a town pool, but would never use it themselves.
Committee Member Martin Selzer said he thought so. Some people, he said, said they supported the idea of a pool but wouldn't necessarily join one. Committee Member Michelle Shehadi also said that kind of information could also be observed in the public comment section of each survey.
Some residents at the meeting said families often use the pool when their children are young and learning how to swim, but said their usage can drop off after that. Committee members noted the pool's status as a teaching spot makes it an important community landmark.
"We have four private club pools," Malanga said. "But historically, the town pool is an entry point, especially for teaching kids to swim."
Resident Herbert Ramo commended the committee for their review. "I work with statistics and you've done a masterful job," he said.
Ramo said he was a member of the pool and used it for exercise. He explained he was a by-pass cardiac patient.
"I find the pool adequate," he said. "If you want to build a bigger one, you can have one at a later date. Every pool has to be repaired."