By Lauren Takores
WALLINGFORD — When Town Councilor Christopher Shortell proposed extending the Community Pool season during budget talks earlier this year, he estimated an extra $10,000 would be generated through a $5 pool pass price increase.
That meant that the Parks and Recreation department needed to sell at least 2,000 pool tags this year to reach the $10,000 needed to cover the extended season. The department reported this week that it has sold 2,673 passes to date.
The total amount brought in by pass sales this year is $60,350, according to information from Superintendent of Recreation Michelle Bjorkman.
Pass sales increase
The pool, 739 N. Main St. Ext., was slated to close Aug. 11 when the Town Council sat down in May to revise the mayor’s proposed budget. Shortell estimated that extending the season by 21 days to Labor Day would cost $30,000.
The extra days would require about $20,000 in staffing, $7,000 in pool chemicals and $3,000 in utilities. Shortell arrived at the estimates with the input of then Parks and Recreation Director John Gawlak and Public Works Superintendent Steven Palermo.
The Town Council approved Shortell's plan as part of the 2019-20 budget partly because it came without a tax increase.
The $30,000 cost was covered by eliminating a Town Council raise of $4,950, eliminating a dedicated Town Council phone line at $1,200, which was a suggestion by Councilor Joseph Marrone, transferring $13,850 from contingency and raising $10,000 from a $5 increase in pool passes.
Last year, Parks and Rec sold 2,497 pool tags, a welcomed increase after two years of declining sales.
In 2015, there were 2,913 pool tag sales. In 2016, the number dipped to 2,219 and fell further in 2017 to 1,975.
About 5,300 pool tags were sold in 2010, but the near-drowning of a 12-year-old New Haven boy in 2012 prompted a town residents-only policy that may have contributed to declining sales.
Shortell said via email Tuesday that he was pleased to see the recent increase in pool pass sales.
“The extended pool season is something I hope we can continue in future years, but it’s just one component,” he said. “We need to continue to look at how we manage Community Pool and explore opportunities to better promote it and make it easier for people to access.”
Alida Cella, a pool advocate who runs the Save Our Pool Facebook page, said Tuesday that increased pool tag sales “indicates that there’s renewed interest in the pool” and “proves it’s a valuable community asset.”
“Probably the publicity around the Facebook page and the threat of it closing renewed interest to buy tags,” said Cella, a mother of three. She added that there were probably other factors, like the extended season and planned update to the property.
In March, the Town Council approved $625,000 for the design of a new Community Pool.
Suggested park uses include a splash pad, playground equipment, a fitness playground, sand volleyball court, food service concession stand, refurbished bath house, picnic area and seasonal entertainment pavilion.
“I hope that the mayor goes forward with it, whatever plan that’s proposed,” she said, adding that the plan should “reflect the current desires and what people would use it for."Pool hours
The pool’s posted hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Aug. 26.
Public schools reopen Aug. 27. From Aug. 27 to Aug. 30, hours are 4-7 p.m.
From Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, which is Labor Day, hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The pool closes for the season after that.