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Armstrong's public pool question: Saving an asset

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Friday, April 25, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

Armstrong County is seeking a grant that will determine the fate of its swimming pool at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin Township. Fate, in this case, brings a range of possibilities — both good and bad for the community of swimmers the pool has served every summer since 1960.

The $60,000 state grant will cover costs for a company to study use of the pool and formulate a strategy for its future. The county hopes to receive the grant and hire a firm to conduct the study this summer.

On the positive side, the study may recommend improvements to the pool to attract more paying customers — the addition of splash and spray zones you might find at a commercial water park, for instance. On the negative side is the possibility that the pool would be made smaller — or perhaps closed — to reduce operating expenses.

There's no way of knowing what the yet-to-be-funded study will produce. What is known is the use of the only public pool in the county has declined dramatically. Last year, use dipped to 14,000 people — about 10,000 fewer than in 2010. It also is true that it costs the same to operate the pool each day whether there are 10 swimmers or 100.

The county must either attract more swimmers to pay entry fees and cover costs or find ways to reduce costs. The study will be key to determining which solution should be pursued.

We — and at last count 14,000 swimmers — hope that closing the pool doesn't end up being the best answer. Its use may be declining, but the pool remains a community asset still enjoyed by many.

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