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‘Free’ pool thrives with public support


ANCRAM—Last summer the Ancram Pool was a remarkably popular place to be. This summer, the Town Board hopes for the return of those hot, sweaty masses yearning for a free place to cool down.

The town’s 56-year-old cement pool, the only outdoor municipal pool in Columbia County, experienced a resurgence of attendance last year, with a jump from about 20 people/day in 2014 to 70/day in 2015. Youngsters attending the Ancram Kids Camp, which also uses the pool, are not included in the numbers.

During a discussion about the pool at the March 17 Town Board meeting, Supervisor Art Bassin said that making entrance to pool free last year “had a stimulating effect on attendance” so much so, the town plans “to do the same thing this year.”

In 2014, the town set up a “Swim Free Fund” to collect donations that would make it free for everyone to swim. The town previously charged a minimal pool admission fee.

The fund also provides scholarships for youngsters to attend the Ancram Kids Camp. The fund brought in more money last year, $16,500, than the total the town would have received from both the camp tuition and by charging an admission fee at the pool.

The camp, which pays for itself, costs the town $15,000/year and the pool costs the town $30,000/year to operate. The pool is open July and August.

This year, prior to the pool’s opening, the Town Board authorized the expenditure of up to $25,000 to fix up the bathrooms/changing rooms at the pool by ripping out walls, floors and fixtures, installing everything new and topping it off with a fresh coat of paint.

The town is currently seeking someone with carpentry and general contracting skills to do the work for $20/hour over the next month or two.

Another project which involves paving the area around the pool and installing a new security fence will be done this fall.

Continuing in the “free” spirit, Councilman Chris Thomas suggested the town think about lowering the fees to attend the Kids Camp, or better yet, not charge at all.

Mr. Thomas pointed out that parents of the children who attend the camp are working folks. “Based upon the budget and the [town’s] money in the bank,” Mr. Thomas said, “it would be a good gesture to do something for them. We spend a lot of money on other stuff.”

The board will consider the idea next month.

Ancram resident Jack Lindsey is secretary of the Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors Association (ANHNA), a not-for-profit corporation that provides food deliveries to local families, offers financial help to local college students, helps families pay emergency expenses and collects school supplies for students in need. He told the board his organization wants to apply for a grant through the Berkshire Taconic Community Leadership Fund to address immediate community needs such as hunger. He asked the Town Board for an endorsement letter to include with the application. He also offered his group’s assistance to fund lunch for the camp kids “if they need it.”

“I’m sure Samantha and the kids would love it,” said Supervisor Bassin. Samantha Mason is the Kids Camp director.

Returning to Mr. Thomas’ proposal, Mr. Lindsey noted that though there are camp scholarships available to pay the tuition of those who cannot afford it, there is likely some “stigma” attached, which would be alleviated by placing the Kids Camp “under a free umbrella.”

The summer camp runs from July 5 to August 12 this year. According to Supervisor Bassin’s meeting notes, the camp theme is “the Arts in Ancram.” On Tuesday mornings at the Town Hall, volunteer Ancram artists will conduct sessions focusing on different areas of the arts.

Any Ancram artist interested in hosting a session should contact the supervisor. Further information is available on the town website: http://www.townofancram.org/.

The next Town Board meeting takes place April 21, starting at 6:45 p.m. with a public hearing on the Right to Farm Law. Pine Plains School District Superintendent Martin Handler is expected to make a presentation about his district’s budget and programs.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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