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Swain’s public pool needs expensive repairs to stay open

fr swainpoolWhile it may not be an immediate need in the upcoming budget, the swimming pool at the Swain County Recreation Center will need some extensive repairs in the coming years.

Jim Brown, supervisor of the recreation center, recently told commissioners that the concrete on the bottom of the pool was crumbling underneath the thick layer of vinyl lining. 

“When we were working in the pool this year we noticed cracking and breaking under the liner,” Brown said. “We talked to Mountain Springs, a company in Franklin, but they don’t do that kind of work because it’s a very specialized kind of thing.”

And by specialized he means expensive. County Manager Kevin King told commissioners the cost of repairing the pool could cost upwards of $750,000. A company out of the Midwest installed the liner with a four-year warranty, but that expired in 2010. 

Brown said the water level in the pool dropped 4 inches in one night, making it evident there is an extensive leak somewhere. However, he said it’s been difficult to pinpoint where the leak is since the surrounding area is fairly “swampy” anyway. 

“We can patch it for the next couple of years, but we need a plan in place now,” King said. “It’s a new problem — it didn’t happen last year.” 

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The pool was first constructed in 1977, and the county spent more than $200,000 in 2007 to make much-needed improvements, including a new filter and pump, new grate-style water return around the pool’s edge and the new vinyl lining. 

King suggested the board consider hiring a consultant during the off season to come in and examine the pool and make recommendations on whether it can be repaired or whether it will need to be replaced. 

Many counties and municipalities have been struggling lately to figure out how they can afford to maintain their outdoor pools that are 50 to 70 years old. Canton’s outdoor pool was constructed in the 1950s. After years of patching and repairing the aging structure, the town board of aldermen is reaching into many different pockets to fund a complete replacement project.  

The pool replacement by itself is going to cost over $1 million, but the town also plans to spend another million on needed sewer upgrades, new pool facilities and other recreational improvements. The town has applied for a $970,000 USDA loan, plans to collect private donations and sponsorships, applied for a $350,000 PARTF (North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund) grant and plans to use money in its reserve fund to pay for the pool project. 

Many local governments go after the highly competitive PARTF grant for pool projects. Swain County received $75,000 in 2007 from PARTF to complete its pool upgrades and the town of Sylva received about $350,000 in PARTF grant funding in 1999 for their pool upgrade project.  

Franklin’s pool is more than 30 years old, but it was constructed using plaster instead of concrete — making it easier to make repairs. While a new layer of thin plaster can be added when cracks start to appear, the same technique doesn’t work with concrete. 

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