BETHLEHEM — Town Supervisor David VanLuven announced on Friday, Nov. 22 that the Town Board will use the next two months to continue having discussions with the public about how to move forward with the Dive Pool situation, after it had been found to be beyond repair this fall.
“During this time, the Town Board and I will accept construction bids on both dive and slide pool options,” VanLuven wrote in a post on his Town Supervisor Facebook page. “We’ll continue talking to you and listening at community meetings, online, and in person. And before taking a final vote, we will hold a Town Board Meeting to hear your views on both options.
The system worked: Bethlehem residents had concerns, the Town Board and I heard them, and we’re taking action,” he continued, adding that he has spoken with the four Town Board members who unanimously supported the new two-month public discussion timeframe.
VanLuven’s post was met with overwhelmingly positive reaction and comments from residents expressing gratitude that more time is being taken to consider such a major project decision.
The Town Board had previously discussed in its Nov. 13 meeting about their inclinations towards two options — a new replacement Dive Pool or a new double-slide pool. VanLuven, Maureen Cunningham, Joyce Becker and Dan Coffey preferred the double-slide pool while Jim Foster preferred a replacement Dive Pool. The former group generally agreed that a double-slide pool has a new “wow factor” that can attract new generations, especially young children and teenagers, to come to the pool complex. Foster said a Dive Pool would be nostalgic for users and families who remember the original one, and diving off it is a significant moment for young children and their parents.
Jason Gallo, the town’s Parks and Recreation administrator, told the board that the current Dive Pool, built in 1973, has suffered from a severely deteriorated concrete structure and is beyond repair. This also halted the original $289,000 plan to repair it.
The Dive Pool situation has since become a hot topic among residents, including how 1,857 people signed an online petition called “Save the Bethlehem Town Park Dive Pool” within just four days. The petition, created by resident Stephanie Dwyer on Tuesday, Nov. 19, generated support from residents who wanted a Dive Pool, not a double-slide pool.
When asked if the petition aims to fight for the original Dive Pool to be repaired regardless of cost or support a new replacement Dive Pool, Dwyer said, “I don’t think the distinction matters. … The Dive Pool has just been near and dear and important to many of us and we want to be heard. It’s nice that the community has come together on this issue. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.”
Although the petition closed after VanLuven’s Facebook post went up last Friday, it is still available to view at www.change.org/p/bethlehem-town-board-save-the-bethlehem-town-park-dive-pool.
“You spoke and your voices were heard! I am honored to have brought our community together to work towards a goal that means so much to so many of us,” Dwyer wrote that day. “Thank you to everyone who reached out and shared a story, shared a picture or shared this petition.”
Public discussion, set to continue through early 2020, predated that petition as this past summer, 1,230 residents took part in a free online 10-question survey about the Dive Pool.
Gallo had told the Town Board on Nov. 13 that 826 residents, or 68 percent of the 1,230 people who took it, said they believe the Dive Pool should be repaired regardless of the cost and 876 people, or 72 percent, said they would still visit the pool complex if the Dive Pool was no longer part of it.
In addition, 745 people, or 62 percent, said they would prefer a slide pool if the town decides not to rebuild the Dive Pool.
To view the survey’s comprehensive results, visit https://www.townofbethlehem.org/DocumentCenter/View/12382/Pool-Complex-and-Dive-Tank-Survey-Results-7-31-19.
When asked if another online public survey could be undertaken within the next two months, VanLuven said, “It would be more productive to have face-to-face conversations and my vision is more for us to have a community forum or two in January. About winter construction, I don’t anticipate we can do that and get the pool open in time this summer. But if there’s a way to do it, I’d like to explore that but we may not be able to.”
He added that he appreciated the “level of community participation and involvement in a town decision so far and I think it speaks well of our residents that they’re this invested in this community.”