Editorial: Bristol should test pool water before jumping in

Posted 2/9/18

The Town of Bristol should peer cautiously over the deep end of any pool complex before deciding to jump. There are many cheerleaders in town who would gleefully support any effort to build a …

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Editorial: Bristol should test pool water before jumping in

Posted

The Town of Bristol should peer cautiously over the deep end of any pool complex before deciding to jump. There are many cheerleaders in town who would gleefully support any effort to build a municipal community pool complex in Bristol. That does not mean it’s a good idea.

At the urging of the town’s recreation department, a small committee of citizens is investigating how (and if) to build an aquatics center adjacent to the town’s community center.

The town should be wary of diving into waters normally managed by private enterprises. Recent efforts to turn abandoned schools into business incubators, town buildings into arts centers, and waterfront properties into market rentals, have produced mixed results. In most cases, the Town of Bristol is not built to manage facilities or operations typically handled by the private sector.

The community center is an exception, as the municipal government already had a department (recreation) whose mission and talents match the usage of the facility. But hosting yoga classes and organizing summer camps are far easier than running a massive aquatics facility, open seven days a week, with major staffing, maintenance and public safety burdens.

It’s too early to pee in the pool and ruin the dream for the many advocates who staunchly support this idea. The committee should be allowed to investigate and report, and all should keep an open mind on how this might work. After all, with the nearest pool facilities 20 to 30 minutes in every direction (YMCAs in Barrington, Newport and Seekonk), the idea of having an indoor/outdoor pool facility close to home is very tempting.

Yet so is having a top-class public school district; safer, less-congested roads; and a few trees left standing before house lots consume all available open space. In other words, the town faces an array of challenges, with many financial constraints. The public schools are barreling toward a financial crisis, as the state withdraws money from a district that has been chronically under-funded by local taxpayers for years. Metacom Avenue needs major improvements. And it would be nice to preserve what little open space remains in Bristol.

As pool supporters continue their research, they should determine if an aquatics center can be financially viable, independent and sustainable. Otherwise, the town should not jump in.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.