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Changes would put Middletown in charge of pool by itself, might threaten its future

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/28/18

One major change of the new Middletown Area Recreation Alliance could have a major impact on Middletown borough.

From now on, the borough will be solely financially responsible for the swimming …

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Changes would put Middletown in charge of pool by itself, might threaten its future

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One major change of the new Middletown Area Recreation Alliance could have a major impact on Middletown borough.

From now on, the borough will be solely financially responsible for the swimming pool it owns on South Union Street.

That change doesn’t really kick in until 2019. Even though the new alliance agreement is to be effective on July 1, funding through the Olmsted board to support the pool is guaranteed to October of this year — meaning the change won’t have an impact on the pool this season.

At present, money provided through the existing Olmsted board goes to Middletown from the other municipalities to help operate the swimming pool.

But the study by Tonya Brown of the Mechanicsburg Area School District, on which the MARA structure is modeled, recommends Middletown take sole responsibility for the pool.

Similarly, Mechanicsburg borough owns the community pool there.

“It really is difficult,” Brown said, adding that she understands the concerns of Middletown Borough Council over whether the borough can continue operating the pool on its own. She suggested the borough work with the recreation director to be hired by the new alliance, to undertake a feasibility study of the pool.

Middletown Area School District board President Linda Mehaffie said the recommendation that the alliance not be involved in running the pool came solely from Brown.

However, none of the other entities besides Middletown disagreed with the recommendation.

Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter told council during a meeting in 2017 that the school district, Lower Swatara and Royalton did not want to be involved in running the swimming pool under the new alliance due to concerns over liability.

Mehaffie agreed, saying that the liability involved in a public swimming pool was “a huge part” of Brown’s recommendation.

Borough Council Vice President Dawn Knull, who has been Middletown council’s liaison to the existing Olmsted board, told council in September that the pool had been costing the Olmsted board about $80,000 a year.

Even with that, the pool still ran a deficit of from $4,000 to $5,000 in 2017, Klinepeter told council.

One possible option council plans to look at for keeping the pool open and available to borough residents long-term is to turn ownership of the pool over to a nonprofit organization — an idea that has been suggested by borough Solicitor Adam Santucci.

What to do about the pool is “a bridge we have to cross” in the near future, council President Damon Suglia told the Press & Journal. However, Suglia still sees the new alliance as being “positive” for borough residents on the whole.

“We will have some learning pains, but it’s less of a burden on the borough because we will have somebody” who can apply for grants and seek alternate sources of funding to help support the providing of recreational services, Suglia said, referring to the new director to be hired by the alliance.