Mobilizing a grand project such as a new swimming pool in a small town like Pittsfield, Maine, requires a citizens’ grass-roots effort. “Maine is a proud state with very hard-working people up there, determined to do it,” says Chris Knight, project manager of Custom Pools in Newington, N.H.
He was in charge of building the Paul E. Bertrand Community Swimming Pool in Pittsfield, which opened this summer. “They just hit the grindstone and made this thing happen.”
The town pool was built in 1953 and continually patched for years. In 1983, a five-person swimming pool committee was created to look at different options for a new vessel.
Through the decades, and more aggressively in recent years, the committee contacted various contractors, companies and individuals who could contribute to the building of a new pool.
The city government had some seed money in a reserve account from the 1980s, and received a $25,000 national parks, water and land conservation grant. “We had to show a recreational project that was needed and certain votes to take place,” town manager Kathryn Ruth explains. Grant funding approval also required a 50 percent match, which the town had.
Two companies contributed $20,000 and $15,000 to the fund-raising efforts. The rest came from the work of the pool committee. To raise money, it organized various events — potlucks, donations, memorial contributions, services and equipment contributions. The local lumber yard donated material, and a local mason gave several thousand dollars of assistance. A total of 41 contractors and vendors involved gave discounts or items for free, Ruth says. “One gave us a whole roof [for the bathhouse] free of charge. We were very fortunate.”
It is through this type of effort that Knight believes future community pools in smaller towns will come to fruition, particularly after living through the current recession. He says other communities in New England have started calling him to learn strategies from Pittsfield’s grass-roots campaign.
“What you see in small communities is that your grandfather grew up there, your kids swim there, your grandkids swim there,” Knight says. “What this town did was put their minds to it… and get back to what it used to be like.”
The $500,000 facility has a zero-depth entry with five dancing jets for little kids, two tiled pool lanes, an 800-square-foot area for water aerobics, and 800 square feet for diving and learn-to-swim lessons. The facility also included new lighting and security, as well as a handicapped accessible picnic table and sidewalk.
Pittsfield residents enter for free, while nonresidents pay $2 a visit and $1 for children. The new pool draws visitors from six other towns, Ruth says. Learn-to-swim classes cost $25 a child.
The regular budget and user fees will take care of pool maintenance, but Ruth says the pool committee will continue actively with its fund-raising efforts to maintain the facility rather than rely solely on property taxes. The committee was so effective in its work, she says, that the pool was named after its most active member, Paul E. Bertrand.