West Pittston officials apply for grant to improve Baltimore Avenue Park, demolish swimming pool

By Jimmy Fisher - jfisher@timesleader.com | July 8th, 2016 2:17 pm

WEST PITTSTON — If there was any hope that the borough pool would one day reopen, those dreams can be put to rest.

Council members recently adopted a resolution to apply for a Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program (GTRP) grant of $55,661 that will be used specifically towards demolishing the empty pool in Baltimore Avenue Park, which is owned by the borough.

Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Committee and council member Judy Aita said the borough also applied for a Small Community Grant of about $60,000 that was originally going to go towards the senior playgrounds, but the pool needs it more.

“We’re not giving up on the senior park,” she said. “But, we’ve got this eyesore that we want to deal with and that’s what it’s more suited for. The senior park isn’t taking a back seat, but it’s on a different track.”

The Small Community Grant will not be awarded until October, and Aita said she is unsure when the GTRP grant will be awarded.

She said the plan is to demolish the pool and the fencing around it, fill in the area with dirt, grass and pathways and insert a gazebo in the center.

She wants the park to be used for concerts and small gatherings, she said.

“We have two children’s parks, a dog park and we don’t have a venue for concerts for anything like that,” said Aita. “It’ll be one of those places where people can bring a blanket, a chair or other things.”

According to borough manager Savino Bonita, 2010 was the last year the pool was opened and it has remained closed since.

Council President Brian Thornton recalled that day as a sad one.

“It was a very unfortunate and sad event,” he said. “I, myself, I grew up in a large family in the ’60s and ’70s and my sisters, brothers and I would trek daily over to that pool. It was a great place to go for decades.”

The year before closing the pool, the borough paid the Greater Pittston YMCA $22,000 to operate it, but only 90 season passes were sold, which was 200 less than normal.

Thornton said two surveys were done in 2009 to see what could be done to save the pool before closing it.

“The one rehab would cost $1.2 million, but we could get away with a bare bones pool at a minimum of $700,000,” he said. “We realized we didn’t have any money, so we applied all over the state for grants and didn’t receive any. We tried fundraising and couldn’t raise money. The pool was in such bad shape and it became a safety hazard with concrete chipping and cracks in the pool.”

Aita hopes the public will understand the decision to demolish the pool and support the gazebo project if the grants are awarded.

“We were trying to find a facility that requires minimum upkeep, which goes into why we don’t redo the pool because we have to look long-term into what is costly to maintain,” she said. “I know people love the pool, it was there in my day and everybody has fond memories of the pool. But, we just have to realize it’s not economically reasonable. I think there was hope there for a while that we could revive it, which we can’t.”

The swimming pool in Baltimore Avenue Park that borough officials are seeking to tear up with the help of a GTRP grant and make improvements on the area.
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_PSD071016Pool.jpgThe swimming pool in Baltimore Avenue Park that borough officials are seeking to tear up with the help of a GTRP grant and make improvements on the area. Jimmy Fisher | Sunday Dispatch

By Jimmy Fisher


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