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Freeport area pool may not reopen

| Saturday, Dec. 4, 2004

FREEPORT -- Freeport Area Community Pool likely will remain empty next summer unless the operating board comes up with as much as $600,000 to renovate the aging facility.

The seven-member operating board decided Thursday to indefinitely close the pool, citing a lack of money and interested people.

Board President Gregg McQueen said the 41-year-old pool is desperately in need of renovation. The steel walls are rusting, the filtration system needs replaced and the roof over the locker rooms leaks.

"We've tried everything we can think of," McQueen said.

The board applied for state grants, but it's not eligible for many because it's not operated by a municipality. The three communities it serves -- Freeport, Buffalo and South Buffalo -- were approached several years ago about funding the pool and forming a joint committee to operate it, but the request didn't gather enough support.

The board hoped changing the pool from a private, members-only facility a few years ago to a public pool would qualify for more money, but it didn't work.

McQueen said that on a good day about 100 to 150 people use the pool, but the past summer's cool weather didn't help.

He thought the large increase of participants in the pool's swim team this summer was a good omen.

However, of the estimated 300 swim team members and season pass holders invited to Thursday's meeting, only 12 attended, he said.

"I think it's apathy," McQueen said. "I hate to say it, but people don't seem to care."

The board has been scrambling for years to find the money to keep the pool open, but McQueen said they decided there isn't enough community support to justify the effort.

"The seven of us just can't do it anymore," he said.

The board still will host its annual Monte Carlo night in February because there are outstanding bills to be paid. But that won't begin to cover the operating costs for next spring or the needed renovation costs.

"Unless something drastic happens as far as donations, we can't afford to open the doors next spring," McQueen said. "We need $10,000 to $12,000 to open, but that doesn't solve the larger problem."

McQueen said that if the pool remains closed for good, the facility will be turned over to the Freeport Community Park, which owns the land.

"It's very sad," McQueen said. "My kids use the pool. I grew up at that pool."

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