Piney Branch Pool in Danger of Closing
The Piney Branch Pool in Takoma Park faces closure if county funds used to subsidize it dry up this year.
The 25-meter pool is used by swimmers, senior citizens and even the Montgomery Blair High School swim team, but without county funds it might have to shut at the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
The pool gets about $150,000 a year in operating funding and another $20,000 a year in maintenance money for the pool, according to Montgomery County Recreation Director Gabriel Albornoz. But, that money is not in the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget. The pool user fees brings in about $70,000 in revenue. Expenses are about $230,000.
“There is no question there is a need for more pool time in the county. Our indoor aquatic facilities are heavily used, but it has to be cost effective too and other pools are covering operating expenses,” Albornoz told MyMCMedia.
The pool averages about 1,600 visits a month, according to Albornoz.
The pool here is unique in that it is attached to an elementary school, Piney Branch Elementary, making maintenance and hours issues complicated. The pool and the school share locker rooms and an HVAC system. The pool can’t operate during the school day and needs a building service worker in the building when it is in use, an additional operating expense, according to Albornoz.
The pool was build in the 1970s. It had been operated by the county’s recreation department until the early 2000s when the county’s finances tightened. That’s when the pool operations bounced from the the Takoma Park YMCA Youth and Family Services, back to the county and then to Adventist Hospital which took over operations until today, Albornoz said.
Joyce Seamens is director of pool operations for Adventist Community Services and says the pool is an intricate and loved part of the community.
“It makes my heart so proud that we have this pool. It is fantastic. I’m gong to fight for it,” she said in leading the charge to get the funding into the county’s budget.
Due in a about a week is a study of the pool and what it would it take to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, fix the HVAC system and determine the cost to make the pool separate from the school. The study would also include other things like slides and spray equipment to draw more visitors.
“That would give it a fighting chance for revenue,” Albornoz said.
Albornoz said the study would give the department a better idea how much maintenance and renovation is needed. A preliminary student done about four years ago indicated cost estimates of up to $3 million.
“There is a lot of community support to keep this pool open,” Albornoz said.
Seamens said she’s already setting up the pool to be open for Memorial Day.
“I see this pool doing good things for people,” she said. “I think [the county council] need to know where the money is coming from. There is nobody who wouldn’t want to help the kids. It’s just a matter of where they are going to get the money.”
The Takoma Park City Council approved a resolution urging county leaders to find the funding to keep the pool above water.