The decision to invest in a family pool isn’t easy. When we first moved to Massapequa in 1967, none of our neighbors had pools. At some point, my father made the executive decision to get an 18-foot round, 4-foot-high pool, and it immediately became the best thing ever.
I don’t believe the summers were any hotter back then, but I believe my parents thought the words “air conditioning” were French for “not in this lifetime.” I had nothing but great memories of that pool. For the next five or six years, we were in that pool all summer.
Then something called junior high school got in the way. Instead of swimming, we started hanging out with those same previously aquatic friends, in places that didn’t have a water source. I assume most pools on Long Island became vacant ovals of crystal clear water due to diminishing usage while still requiring the same amount of maintenance and increasing cost to keep running. At some point, my father made another executive decision, this time to shut it down.
That same process continued into the next generation, when my wife and I made an executive decision to get a pool after our children were tall enough to stand up with their heads above the water. Again, pool usage was at an all-time high in the beginning and slowly began to wane as the years passed. Once the kids stopped going in the pool regularly, it became an unnecessary albatross.
This leads me to the subject of a $16 million investment of tax dollars for an Aquatic Center at the Berner Middle School, which was voted down by Massapequa residents last week. Who thought that was a good idea in the first place? Of all the things that $16 million could be used for, how did a six-lane, Olympic sized aquatic and diving center, that could only be used for competitive swimming meets, get to the top of the list?
Bravo for the voters, who saw through the rhetoric and did the right thing, voting almost 2-to-1 against the proposal. This was a boondoggle from the start. They were trying to put one over on the taxpayers, making it sound like a community pool when, in reality, it would never be that.
Only two hours per week were initially set aside for public use. If you were planning on putting little Riley in a bathing suit during the Thanksgiving break, understand the depth of a competitive swimming pool starts at five feet. There are no stairs to easily enter the water, only vertical ladders that will be an uncomfortable, if not impossible challenge for seniors and special needs children.
Proponents for the idea touted that it was only going to cost the average Massapequa homeowner about $28 a year in additional school taxes. They told us how other school districts, without their own aquatic centers, would be lining up to pay our district to swim here, in the same way we currently pay Brentwood to use their facilities.
With basic maintenance approaching $300,000 per year (including staff salaries), the school district was hoping to defray much of that cost by enticing districts without pools to use the facility at $50,000 per school for two competitive seasons every year. Unfortunately, there may not be many districts out there willing to fund a new swimming program or willing to leave their current agreements to come to Massapequa.
Residents don’t budget for their backyard pools expecting others to help pay for chlorine and electricity. Most parents sent little Brendon to swim next door with just a bag of chips. How did the district think this was going to get paid for if other schools take a hard look at their budget and say, “thanks, but no thanks”? Unlike your backyard pool, you can’t cut your losses on this monstrosity by taking it down and filling the circle with sod.
I’ve got a better idea. Let’s take advantage of the new Aquatic Centers our neighbors to the North in Farmingdale are getting ready to open. Their new, taxpayer funded sports complex cost over $36 million, and they put in two pools—one for competitive swimming and one for community use. Now, if Riley’s parents want to take their little mermaid swimming during Thanksgiving break, it won’t cost every single Massapequa taxpayer. And don’t forget the bag of chips.
Paul DiSclafani has been a columnist for Anton Media Group since 2016. He has called Massapequa home for 50 years.