PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For more than 80 years, the city has maintained a 900,000-gallon outdoor pool just past the campus of the University of Maine at Presque Isle. With its monstrous slide and a walking bridge that skims the water, it has attracted generations of people looking to learn how to swim or cool off on a hot summer day.
But age and wear have forced city officials to take a deeper look at the pool and how it will play into the future of the Star City.
During a City Council meeting on Monday evening, Chris Beaulieu, recreation and parks director, updated the group on the pool’s condition.
The outdoor pool is five times larger than a normal indoor pool, Beaulieu said during the meeting. Each summer, approximately 200 children pay a small fee to take swimming and water safety lessons at the facility and an estimated 300 people swim there during a warm day. It costs between $25,000 and $30,000 to run the pool each summer.
“That is the price for the chemicals, the water and the staff,” he said. “We generate a little income but we’ve made a big effort to keep costs down. We did not use to charge a fee for our programs.”
But Beaulieu said that the department has been using a “Band-Aid approach” to care for the pool over the past few decades and he told councilors that big decisions soon need to be made about the pool’s future. A culvert necessary for the pool’s water circulation and drainage needs to be repaired, as does a retaining wall and the walking bridge. The popular slide is out of service. The asphalt bottom of the pool has been paved “as needed” over the years, according to Beaulieu, and is hard to keep in good condition. The pool also does not have a filtering system.
In order to keep the pool clean, it is chlorinated and drained of water every other week. Beaulieu said he believes that environmental protection regulations will be enacted that will prohibit that practice.
“The way I see it, we can keep it open and invest money in it,” he told councilors. “It would be a substantial amount, but the pool is valuable and worth having. We could replace it at the same or a different location. I would not recommend a pool of the same size.”
The third option would be to close the outdoor pool. Beaulieu said that he would not recommend that option.
The outdoor pool is open between seven and eight weeks each summer. Beaulieu said that most of the staff members are high school students who go back to school in mid-August, so it is hard to keep the facility open longer. The city also has an indoor pool that offers swimming and water safety lessons year round. That facility costs more to run. The University of Maine at Presque Isle also has an indoor pool that resident can use for a fee.
Beaulieu said the department has not gathered cost estimates for repairing the pool or installing a filter. But he acknowledged that the filter cost for a 900,000-gallon pool would be “huge.”
“Over the next several months, this needs to be looked at,” he said. “There are tough decisions to make.”
The council did not make any decisions during the meeting but will continue to examine the issue in the coming months.