Our View: Pooling Our Resources

by The Cape Cod Chronicle

Every few years, an idea resurfaces, buoyed by enthusiastic swimmers. But before it gets a chance to sink or swim with voters, it vanishes in the deep end of other town spending projects.

It’s a municipal swimming pool, and it’s back for another lap. Maybe it’s time to give the idea a proper look.

Patrick Otton of Harwich has submitted a petition article to consider building an Olympic-sized swimming pool at the town’s community center. He’s not the first one to have the idea; when the community center was built in 2000, the town installed the necessary pipes in the basement to accommodate a pool. As we recall, including the plumbing was a compromise between those who wanted the pool as part of the construction project, and those who sought to keep the project price under control.

Otton said the price of adding a pool to the community center was around $18 million in 2018. It surely wouldn’t be any less expensive today.

We favor further examination of the idea, with the caveat that the town of Chatham be invited to share in the expense and use of the facility. With Orleans looking ahead to creating its own community center, perhaps it would like to get in on the deal as well. A regional aquatics center at the Harwich Community Center has the potential to serve a wide ranging population, as well as generate significant fee revenue for Harwich.

There was a time where the idea of a municipal swimming pool on Cape Cod was laughable. (After all, we’re surrounded by water.) But the changing demographics of the Cape and the increase in year-round residents mean there is a strong demand for aquatics, from taxpayers who would be more than willing to pay a reasonable fee for the privilege. In Chatham and Orleans, places where space constraints alone would likely derail a big swimming pool project, partnering with a neighbor would likely be a very attractive option.

So, if only to put the question to rest for another few years, we support further study of a regional swimming pool at the Harwich Community Center. Perhaps the site’s too small, or perhaps the revenue potential is less than it seems. Maybe voters would resoundingly sink the idea. But we won’t know until we dip our toe in the water.