WEST MIDDLESEX — As temperatures rise and summer draws closer, the Lackawannock-Shenango-West Middlesex Community Pool is preparing for another season of swimming and recreation.
Although there is still some work to be done, such as power washing, some minor painting and filling the pool with water, Brian Foster, Mercer County Regional Council of Government recreation director, says residents can expect the pool to open on schedule June 1.
“I met with my maintenance staff. We did a walkthrough, and everything looks like we’re on pace for opening day,” Foster said Thursday.
In 2018, 4,411 people visited the community pool, an increase from 3,545 in 2017.
Not everyone who uses the pool is from the nearby communities of Lackawannock, Shenango Township and West Middlesex however, as the only 45 percent of all attendees came from the three communities. Other attendees came from as close as Hermitage, Sharon, Sharpsville and Farrell, and from as far away as Mercer, Wilmington and Hubbard, Ohio, according to the 2018 pool report.
“I think a lot of it has to do with word of mouth because people know the facility is clean, we have good lifeguards, and we’ve been fortunate to have those numbers in terms of attendance and concessions,” Foster said.
One aspect of the community pool that helps it stand out in Mercer County is the inclusion of an ADA-accessible ramp. While there are ladders available, the ramp allows seniors or swimmers with physical disabilities to simply walk into the water.
“We’ve had people say, “I never thought I’d get back in the swimming pool because I don’t have the arm strength or the leg strength to climb in and out, but at your pool I can just walk in,”” Foster said.
The annual operating budget for the community pool is just under $40,000, which is paid for by the three communities of Lackawannock, West Middlesex and Shenango Township. This allows for maintenance of the pool, but not for additional capital improvements.
The last major replacement project at the pool was a 15-year-old pump that became inefficient at keeping the water circulating. The pump was replaced with a new one at a cost of $1,100 to each of the three communities for parts, the pump and labor, Foster said.
The pump was replaced two summers ago and is not expected to need to be replaced for about 15 years.
“When the season comes, we turn the pump on, and it’s running all day, every day until the fall,” Foster said.
Although there are no major repairs or renovations needed, there are a few projects Foster would like to see done.
A nearby park, which is under the jurisdiction of West Middlesex, has small gravel rocks that are sometimes thrown by children and end up in the pool. Even though the lifeguards try to sweep out the rocks, it’s not always possible to remove all of them from the bottom of the white-floored pool.
Other possible improvements to the pool could be the addition of shaded areas, since there is currently only a picnic table with an umbrella available on a first-come first-serve basis. Otherwise, visitors are out of options when it comes to staying out of the sun, Foster said.
“Any time we’ve had improvements in the past, it was either covered by the three municipalities and times when social organizations like the VFW or Kiwanis raised money to help offset the cost,” Foster said.
Shenango Township Supervisor Dale Perry agreed with Foster at Tuesday’s monthly COG meeting. Along with additions for shade such as an awning or pavilion, Perry said he would like to see a solar thermal heating system for the pool, which would involve pumping the water through a tube during the day to absorb the sun’s heat.
“The pool is about 11 or 12 feet deep, so that water stays cold for a good part of June,” Perry said.
Due to the lack of funding for additional projects, Perry suggested pursuing grants available for solar-themed projects, citing grants awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for similar projects such as constructing a solar panel array at a company headquarters and replacing older vehicles with cleaner vehicles.
“When I went online and saw the kind of grants and money that was out there, I was shocked,” he said.
Hermitage Commissioner Louis Squatrito agreed that it would be worth pursuing additional revenue sources for the pool for both additional projects and maintenance, having been an attendee there himself.
“I used to go to swimming there when I was younger, and that’s a good pool,” Squatrito said.
Although it night have seemed like Greenville did not have “much skin in the game” when it came to the community pool, Greenville Council President Paul Hamill said it is important to maintain recreational opportunities that help encourage people to raise their families in the area.
Greenville itself had a swimming pool until it was closed 2010 due to a lack of maintenance.
“I think it absolutely hurt our community by letting the pool go,” Hamill said.
Information on the community pool can be found at the COG’s website at www.mcrcog.com, or by visiting “Swimming at the LSWM Pool. (West Middlesex Community Pool)” on Facebook.
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