Fire company wants public input on fate of Buena Vista swim pool
By Tim Karan
Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, 3:56 a.m.
Despite last week's subzero temperatures and seemingly constant snow cover, members of the Buena Vista Volunteer Fire Co. in Elizabeth Township want residents to start thinking about their swimming pool.
A town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the fire hall to discuss the future of the public facility that the company has owned and operated since volunteers built it in 1949.
Chief Richard Diehl said firefighters then decided to build what is believed to be one of the longest standing in-ground public swimming pools in Allegheny County as a way to keep children from swimming in the Youghiogheny River.
Although the 110,000-gallon pool once served as the de facto center of the community during summer months, Diehl said attendance has diminished in recent years, bringing into question the future of the pool, which is funded entirely by the fire company with help from the ladies auxiliary.
“For the last 15 years, we've been losing $6,000 to $15,000 a year to keep it open,” Diehl said. “More people have pools of their own and donations have dwindled. Some of the proceeds of our social club go to offset the losses of the pool, but we need people to know that we're at a crossroads with it.”
Diehl said the pool — which is open to all residents of Elizabeth Township and the surrounding communities — is in desperate need of repairs and renovations to attract more patrons.
“It passes inspection every year, but new regulations forced us to hire two lifeguards and a pool manager and the cost of chemicals and insurance are always going up,” he said. “We keep entry fees at a base minimum because we want it to remain a community asset, but the bottom line is we're going to need more public support.”
Tom Knestaut, chairman of the company's swimming pool committee, said the purpose of Wednesday's meeting isn't to ask for money, but to learn how township residents feel about the pool.
“We want the community to tell us what they want, need and expect out of the facility so we know what we should do moving forward,” Knestaut said. “Hopefully, collectively, we can all come up with a good plan.”
Knestaut said state Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, and several township commissioners have said they'll be in attendance and there will be a screening of a converted 16mm film taken when the pool was being built more than 60 years ago.
“We hope to show people the hard work and dedication it took for our members to make that pool a reality,” Knestaut said. “For a long time, it was where everybody went in the summer. Things are different now and we don't want to close it, but we're going to need help from the community it still serves.”
Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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