A group of borough residents who hope to reopen the Fountain Hill Pool by finding money to pay for repairs to it met for the first time Thursday evening at Borough Hall.
Due to mounting maintenance costs and a short-term repair estimate in the tens of thousands of dollars, a majority of Fountain Hill Borough Council members voted to permanently close the 63-year-old pool earlier this spring.
Difficulty finding lifeguards and other seasonal staff to operate the facility was another challenge cited by borough officials, who had previously surveyed residents regarding the pool and held a special meeting to discuss options for it that were under consideration.
It wasn’t until after council’s March vote to close the pool that there was a public outcry, and an effort to save it–spearheaded by borough resident Mike Zovko–began.
A former lifeguard and Fountain Hill councilman, Zovko distributed a petition that was signed by residents opposed to the decision. The support demonstrated by it helped convince the current council to offer the pro-pool residents a temporary “reprieve,” he said, noting that council agreed to postpone any final decisions about the pool for a year.
The pool will remain closed this summer, which means that Fountain Hill residents who want to swim will have to travel to municipal pools in Bethlehem, Hellertown or beyond.
To find the funding necessary to make the pool financially sustainable again, Zovko suggested at the meeting that grant writers and researchers will be needed immediately.
The last time the pool underwent a major renovation was probably in the early 1990s, and the repairs it now needs include “a lot of cement work,” he said.
Per Zovko’s PowerPoint presentation, other immediate needs the ad hoc committee has include legal guidance, particularly for the establishment of a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization; web design and social media expertise; individuals with construction experience; a location in which to hold future meetings; and, of course, volunteers.
In an outline of what he proposed for the group’s mission, Zovko suggested that the issues the borough is currently facing with regard to the pool are a symptom of a waning sense of community in Fountain Hill, which is home to approximately 5,000 people.
Long a symbol of civic pride for Hillers, the pool is one of just a few borough-owned amenities, and its loss would be a blow to what remains of that community spirit.
Its possible resurrection is a component of a vision Zovko outlined for strengthening community bonds within the borough, which he said could extend beyond Fountain Hill’s borders into adjacent eastern Salisbury Township.
In addition to saving the pool, Zovko said he would like to develop a community center; something he said was discussed years ago, when vacant land next to it was considered.
Plans related to the community center fall under several long-term goals Zovko outlined.
In the short-term, the group’s focus will be on finding the funds needed to restore the pool–estimated at at least $80,000 to $100,000–as well as addressing its staffing needs.
If the pool is to be saved, “we need to get grant money as soon as possible,” Zovko said.
He suggested that several committees be formed to help achieve the group’s goals, including committees for Fundraising and Grants, Programming, Communication and Membership, Finance and Administration, Planning and Consulting.
Several meeting attendees said they were concerned about how information about Thursday’s meeting had been communicated, and indicated that a lack of communication about issues of importance is a significant problem for many borough residents; in particular those who don’t have access or choose not to use the Internet or social media.
Zovko said 1,000 flyers advertising the meeting were printed and distributed throughout the borough, and details about it were posted in Facebook groups about Fountain Hill.
Approximately 15 people attended the meeting.
Among them were two young mothers who said that although they haven’t been involved in borough matters in the past, they plan to try and recruit other residents in their age range to volunteer on the committee.
Another resident who said he has lived in the borough for decades expressed skepticism about the vision Zovko outlined and said the pool is a victim of the borough’s financial situation, which he blamed in part on the number of HUD households in the community.
Attendees were invited to provide Zovko with their email address and phone number for future updates about meetings of the Fountain Hill Citizens Committee, which is the group’s working name. To be added to the list, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.