BETHLEHEM — The Town Board voted unanimously on Wednesday, Feb. 26, to award a $719,000 contract to Midatlantic Construction and Design Associates, a New Jersey-based firm, to build a new dive pool at the Elm Avenue Park pool complex.
Construction is set to begin this fall and the pool will open in 2021. Summer construction was ruled out; Town Supervisor David VanLuven explained it was due to challenges in receiving bids and the work schedules of the interested pool construction companies, Midatlantic and the Buffalo-based P&S.
“The good side of that is that we’re not going to have active construction going on in the pool complex during the summer months, so we’ll have that eyesore and not have the dive pool for another season but everyone will still be able to enjoy all of the other amenities that we have at the pool complex without the roaring rumble of construction,” he said.
The original dive pool was built in 1973 but closed in summer 2019 after its deteriorated structural integrity was deemed beyond repair. This started a townwide discussion on whether to replace it with another dive pool or a new two-slide pool. In 2019, many residents expressed they wanted the original dive pool repaired or replaced when they spoke to the Town Board and took part in two public online surveys. At this year’s Feb. 12 Town Board meeting, numerous residents spoke in support of the dive pool option again in a special interactive public forum.
“We are so lucky to live in a community where we get to have a raging debate over a 15-foot-high double-slide pool or a wonderful dive pool,” VanLuven said. “It reflects, I think, on the quality of life and tradition that we have in Bethlehem. I think that’s something that we celebrate.”
Town Board member Maureen Cunningham echoed VanLuven’s statements, saying, “It was really incredible to see everyone — from Girl Scouts to older people in town and everyone in between — commenting, although most people really did want the dive pool.”
She added that she hopes such public interest and discourse will not fade away when it comes to other important town issues, including open space, energy efficiency and a lack of a formal Black History Month event. “So, don’t go away,” she said. “For all the people who spoke up for the dive pool, there are many other issues and I hope to see you again at the Town Board and writing to us on those issues.”
Town Board member Dan Coffey also expressed appreciation for the public turnout, regardless of which pool option they preferred. “We saw a tremendous amount of participation from everyone … and we just appreciate the amount of civic involvement on everyone’s part,” he said.
Town Board member Jim Foster chimed in, “I think this is a great lesson for the community and this has been a very positive experience for all of us. It’s a great example of the fact that we can always revisit decision-making and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I think we need to be cognizant of what the wishes of the community are and their opinions are certainly valuable.”
He continued, “I think the outcome is a great one and we look forward to enjoying the dive pool for generations to come.”
When Midatlantic Construction and Design Associates presented a bid for $719,000 for the dive pool’s construction, it was the cheapest out of the four bids the town received at its Feb. 12 meeting. This led Jason Gallo, the town’s Parks and Recreation administrator, to recommend the Town Board to choose that bid. “The dive pool has been an instrumental part of the town’s pool complex for more than four decades,” he said. “There’s a clear affinity among the community for it.”
The dive pool’s construction would have cost $822,000 if the town moved forward with P&S. However, the slide pool would cost $1.1 million with P&S or $757,000 with Midatlantic.