YOUNGSTOWN YWCA trustees vote to close pool

Besides leaking 2,244 gallons a week, the pool has been a drain on the budget, its director says.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Users of the YWCA's swimming pool will soon have to swim somewhere else.
Despite objections from swimmers and 27 signatures on a petition protesting the pool's closing, the YWCA board of trustees voted 10-4 Wednesday to close its deficit-plagued pool effective Tuesday, except for any events already planned for the near future. Several part-time lifeguards will be laid off.
That decision follows a 7-5 vote in December by the board's executive committee to recommend closing the pool this month. The full board of trustees had adopted a conceptual plan last March to close the pool and build a youth center.
Costs: With usage declining, the 1950s-vintage pool cost $172,000 to operate in 2000, during which it generated a mere $31,000 in revenue from user fees, Connie Shaffer, YWCA executive director, told the board.
It would cost $2,600 to replace the pool's visibly deteriorating pipes, she said, adding that pool water leakage has increased for unknown reasons from 2 inches every three weeks to 2 inches a week in the last six months. The leakage now amounts to 2,244 gallons a week from the pool, which is 60 feet long, 36 feet wide and has a maximum depth of 10 feet.
The executive committee concluded that a safety hazard existed for staff because pipes might burst. Shaffer said the leakage could damage the building's foundation or create an underground void into which the building or street could settle.
Shaffer said the YWCA plans a $1 million to $1.5 million fund-raising campaign later this year to fill in the pool and replace it with a center offering child care, a preschool and youth programs within the next few years.
"Our mission is toward women, and women are working today, and they're in need of child care, and we provide that function within the inner city," Shaffer said.
The YWCA intends to rent another pool for swimming lessons for children in its child-care programs, she said.
Users: Before its decision, the board heard from three women who use the pool and who urged the board to keep it open.
Christine Davidson of Youngstown, who learned to swim there as a child, said the pool is a valuable therapeutic asset to people with health problems. "Youngstown has a huge population of single older women who need this pool," she said.
JoAnn Baiss of Struthers, a widow who uses the pool for therapy for neck and back injuries, told the board the pool helps many people maintain their health and independence. "Many of us have been sent here by our doctors because we need to not lose more mobility. We need to not lose more function," she said.
Kay Soman, 72, of Canfield, said she uses the pool as therapy for her arthritis and suggested a philanthropist might help keep the pool open.
Board member Thea Howell suggested that those with medical needs could use the heated therapeutic pool at the Easter Seal Society, which is about a mile and a half away.
"I'm kind of torn. I knew it had to come because of the financial situation," Rose Benford, YWCA board chairwoman and a regular pool user there, said of the board's decision.

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