Manchester asks voters to use reserve funds for park improvements
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | February 02,2013
MANCHESTER — Voters at town meeting will be asked to allow $100,000 from a capital reserve fund to be used in developing two projects in the Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, with half to be spent on finishing the new poolhouse and the rest to be used for renovations of the adjoining skate park.
The warning for town meeting has two questions, each asking that $50,000 be removed from the Capital Improvement Reserve and Contingency Fund. For the poolhouse that will serve the municipal pool, the request is to spend the money. For the skate park, the request is to move the money to the recreation department.
The skate park request is a bit more indirect for a reason, according to Manchester Town Manager John O’Keefe. A group of people, including parents, students and skate park users, has committed to raising money to improve the skate park, and O’Keefe said town officials want the town to participate through a challenge grant.
The plan to improve the park, which has not been finalized, is expected to cost about $100,000. Whatever the group raises, the town will match up to $50,000, if voters approve the ballot item, O’Keefe said.
For the poolhouse, which is now being called a parkhouse because it’s expected to serve more than just pool users, the money would be used to add features which were not part of the original proposal.
In 2012, voters at town meeting approved a bond of $1.5 million to build the new parkhouse.
According to O’Keefe, the proposed improvements, if voters agree to spend the $50,000, would include a security system with an electronic card access system. The system would allow more residents to be able to use the building at off-hours because rather than incur the expense of a staff member in the building to admit people, a guest could be issued a card which allows entrance only at specific times and dates.
The security system would monitor who is coming in to the parkhouse. Because the system can be updated in real time, if an authorized guest lost his or her card, the system could be updated right away to decline access.
The old building didn’t have the security system, but O’Keefe said he and the town insurance company believe the improved building should be protected.
Other proposed features include landscaping, lights for the parking lot, smoke alarms and a sound system that would play music much of the time the pool is open and serve as a public address system during swim meets. The parking lot lights and smoke alarms would provide increased safety and the music at the pool is something O’Keefe said would likely increase use of the pool.
O’Keefe said the building is wired for the features like the security system, lights, and sound system.
A Manchester business, Friends of the Sun, has helped the town develop a proposal for a propane-fueled heating unit which would be placed in the building’s activity room. O’Keefe said it would allow the town to target the most heat to the place it’s most needed, and a program designed to encourage use of the system by municipalities would keep the cost of operation low.
The last feature is a surge tank, filled with water, that helps adjust the water level in the pool. Under the original plan, the tank would have been in the building but by spending some extra money, it will be moved outside which would remove the possibility it could back up and flood the parkhouse.
Both of the requests would be voted on during the floor meeting, which Manchester, unlike most other Vermont towns, holds on the Saturday before Town Meeting Day. This year’s floor meeting will start at 1 p.m. March 2.