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Despite last year's petition, town considers opening pool to nonresidents

Published 1:37 pm, Friday, March 14, 2014

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  • Despite last year's complaints, New Canaan's Recreation Department is considering allowing families from other towns at the Waveny Park pool. Photo: File Photo, Contributed / New Canaan News
    Despite last year's complaints, New Canaan's Recreation Department is considering allowing families from other towns at the Waveny Park pool. Photo: File Photo, Contributed

 

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Despite an outcry from residents last summer, the town's Recreation Department is considering opening Waveny Park pool to out-of-towners again this year.

In August 2013, more than 100 people signed an online petition demanding that nonresidents be banned from the pool. Some said the facility became more crowded and less clean.

Recreation Director Stephen Benko said he's considering opening the pool to nonresidents if an insufficient number of resident passes are sold this season. Though a decision still hasn't been made, he's asking interested nonresidents to call the office.

"We're going to take their names, put (them) on a list and make a decision by the end of April," he said.

The Board of Selectmen approved new fees for passes to the pool at a March 7 special meeting at the police station.

Resident families will pay $475 for a pass, up from $385 in 2013. Out-of-towners would have to pay $1,000 for the season-long pass. Last year, when the decision to allow nonresidents to use at the pool was made in late June, the price was set at $500.

The season starts on Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day weekend.

Benko said the department has had to consider opening the pool to nonresidents because membership has dropped over the years, especially after the 2008 financial crisis.

Benko said he believes many families chose to prioritize other expenses rather than buy a pool pass.

Prior to 2009, the pool had an annual membership of 850 to 875, Benko said. That year, however, the number dropped to about 670, he said.

"You need 850 to keep the fees reasonable," Benko said. "We can't operate at a deficit."

Benko also said the pool has lost many members to private clubs.

He said nonresidents did not cause any problems at the pool last year and that many of the people who signed the petition were not even members of the pool.

Benko noted that the number of swimmers was still lower than what it used to be. Last year, the pool had 830 members, including 100 nonresidents.

Contrary to what many of those who signed the petition believe, the pool is self-funded and its operations are not paid for with taxpayers' dollars, according to Benko.

If the department decides to allow nonresidents this year, Benko said only 100 passes would be sold. If there are more than 100 interested people, a lottery will decide which ones will get passes. Last year, the 100 nonresident passes were sold out in two days without any advertisement.

Individual resident passes will cost $225 this season. Senior citizens age 62 or older will pay $70. New Canaan families can purchase an early pass for $425 through the end of March.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson