Select Board: Hard Pass On Health Club

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Recreation

The former Chatham Health and Swim Club is not a feasible site for a public swimming pool, the select board said. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

Buying Property For Town Pool Not Feasible, Officials Say

CHATHAM — At last year’s town meeting, petitioners asked town officials to take a close look at purchasing the former Chatham Health and Swim Club for use as a town swimming pool. Architects recently completed their evaluation and concluded that it would take a large investment to buy the property and make the building suitable for municipal use. The select board unanimously decided to pull the plug on the proposal.

“This is a 40-year-old building that we’d have to put $5.4 million in, plus another $1.1 or thereabouts to purchase the property itself,” select board Chair Jeffrey Dykens said. “We have roof issues, we have major [accessibility] issues, we have infrastructure issues, we have topography issues, we have liability and staffing issues.” While Dykens said he would love to have a municipal pool in town, “this is not the place for it, at $6.5 million.”

The town hired the architectural firm of Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc. to evaluate the former health club at 251 Crowell Rd., which remains on the market. Built in 1983, the 9,400-square-foot structure occupies a sloping 1.2-acre parcel of land that once housed the health and swim club and a chiropractic office. Responding to a petition article, last year’s annual town meeting asked the town to evaluate the feasibility of acquiring the property for use as a municipal pool and health facility.

Tom Scarlata of BH+A led a team of architects and engineers that evaluated the structure, the swimming pool, the mechanical systems and septic system, and the potential for connecting the property to the town-owned DPW land in the rear. Scarlata presented his findings to the select board on March 14.

“The owner of the building has maintained the building fairly well,” he said. Certain elements need immediate replacement, like the roof, which is “well past its useful service life.” The wood exterior of the building is in fairly good condition, he noted.

Work has been done on the property over the years, removing an accessory apartment and removing the ceiling over the pool to allow insulation to be installed above. The current owner also installed an accessible shower near the swimming pool, as well as two accessible parking spaces.

But Scarlata said the building falls far short of meeting current code for municipal buildings and needs an elevator of some sort to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Depending on the design, the elevator and other ADA work would cost between $353,898 and $1.08 million, the report estimates.

In addition to a new roof, the building requires a number of immediate repairs or tests to the fire sprinklers, mechanical and plumbing systems and fire alarm system, along with servicing of the septic system and various minor fixes. Were it to be converted to municipal use, the town would need a plan to replace some of those systems, along with the HVAC, electrical and stormwater management systems.

The swimming pool itself requires some work but is in “surprisingly good condition,” though it also would not meet accessibility standards, Scarlata said. Because water service has been turned off, the investigators could not fully test the pool mechanical systems.

The pool is 25 feet wide and 52 feet long, smaller than a standard 45-by-75-foot public pool. It has four swimming lanes, while most public pools have more; by comparison, Scarlata said, the pool at Willy’s Gym in Eastham has six lanes.

“This is a very exhaustive and comprehensive analysis,” select board member Dean Nicastro said. The bottom line, he said, is that to purchase the property and make it usable as a public pool, the town would need to invest millions in building upgrades and more than $1 million for the purchase.

“And that’s a lot of money,” Nicastro said. “I think if we really wanted to have a town pool, it would be more advisable to locate a piece of property — whether it’s this or some other property — and build something from the ground up. I think it would be far more cost effective for us.”

Board member Michael Schell acknowledged that many petitioners liked the idea of having a public swimming pool in Chatham, and said he sympathizes with that point of view. But in light of the BH+A study, “this obviously is not a practical answer to that,” he said. “What they essentially told us was that to take something that’s 30 or 40 years old and try and remake it into a current facility that complies with all the current requirements and codes and so forth, is just not a very practical answer.”

“It’s just not the right site,” board member Cory Metters added. Based on the information presented, moving ahead with the acquisition of 251 Crowell Rd. “is not something that I can support,” he said.

The board agreed and took no further action.