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For the kids

Foundations provide final pieces of funding for Rotterdam pool

Saturday, January 12, 2013
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For the kids


Rotterdam Boys & Girls Club Unit Director John Vaccaro looks into the empty swimming pool at the Curry Road facility in June 2012.
Rotterdam Boys & Girls Club Unit Director John Vaccaro looks into the empty swimming pool at the Curry Road facility in June 2012.

— Fixing the only indoor pool serving the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady won’t be an easy task.

Entire sections of the 75,000-gallon, steel-shell structure are compromised and need to be replaced. The pool’s gutter system — a leaky network of PVC piping that caused parts of the shell to crack — also needs to be removed, as do a pair of failing dehumidifiers.

“From top to bottom, everything either needs to be fixed or replaced,” said Shane Bargy, the clubs’ executive director.

And it won’t be cheap either. The repairs to the pool are expected to cost upward of $325,000 — a sum that’s not easily raised by the youth organization.

But the clubs’ board of directors quickly pulled together roughly $220,000 in the months after the pool’s initial failure in April. Now, a pair of Schenectady foundations have pulled together to provide the remaining funds necessary for repairs and then hopefully establish a fund the clubs can use to keep the pool in top condition for decades to come.

In late December, the Schenectady Foundation approved a $100,000 grant toward the repairs, with $25,000 set aside as a challenge for the clubs to match. In addition, the Carlilian Foundation presented the clubs with $20,000 toward the project.

Bargy said the funding will help the project get under way next month and hopefully finish sometime in September. Without the grants, he doubted the pool would have opened at all this year.

“It would be delayed for who knows how long — probably a couple years,” he said Friday after announcing the grants. “They really saved the day.”

The youth organization operates four other pools in the region, but Rotterdam is its only indoor facility. The pool is used by thousands of area youth and senior citizens, in addition to many of the clubs’ members, during the winter months.

Though located in a suburban area, the pool often provides an opportunity for inner city youth to learn how to swim. Before its closure, roughly 700 children attended swimming lessons at the pool annually, many of them from lower-income families.

“It’s obviously a highly used facility,” said Robert Carreau, executive director of the Schenectady Foundation. “It’s one of the few indoor facilities that’s really available on a regular basis for a really low cost.”

The pool at the clubhouse dates to the 1940s, when it was built out of airplane steel to serve a local Army depot. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady has used the facility since 1971 and has periodically done repairs.

The pool was last renovated following a roof collapse in 1995. Since that time, repairs have been piecemeal.

Bargy said the combination of the failed gutter system and faulty dehumidifiers sped the deterioration of the steel structure. The renovated structure should easily last more than 20 years without any major issues, perhaps even longer if a few preemptive steps can be taken.

For instance, Bargy said the exterior of the building should be better insulated. He anticipates using some of the challenge grant money for this purpose.

“Without the money, to get it going would be very difficult,” he said.

The youth organization also learned Friday it will receive funding from the town of Rotterdam that was partially withheld last year as a result of the pool closure. The town has a contract to annually provide it with $18,000 for lifeguards and swimming programs for seniors.

When the pool was shut down last year, town officials decided to withhold the majority of this funding, out of concern they were paying tax dollars for a service that was not being rendered. Supervisor Harry Buffardi said the Town Board has since taken corrective action to change the wording in the contract so the funding can be legally provided even if the pool isn’t open.

“The wording caused a glitch,” he said.

 
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