It’s not often voters have the chance to add to a community’s long-term well being, and in a way fundamental to strengthening its appeal. St. Albans City voters have that opportunity on Town Meeting Day with Article 3, a proposed community swimming pool.

Article 3 reads: “Shall the City of St. Albans issue general obligation bonds or notes in an amount not to exceed five million dollars ($5,000,000) for the purpose of financing the construction of a year-round community pool, pool house, air supported dome, site work, park, roadway, and sidewalk construction, utility improvements, and professional services, to be located at the Hard’ack Recreation Facility, and including $250,000 for improvements to Houghton park and for the payment thereof pledge the credit of the City, in particular the revenues generated from the local option tax?”

St. Albans City voters have voted on this issue once before and approved it by a two-to-one margin. It didn’t pass because town voters narrowly voted it down. This time, the city is taking on the project itself. It’s a continuation of the inertia the city has generated over the past eight years with its enormously successful TIF project, and the rebuilding of downtown St. Albans.

City leaders understand progress does not end with Main Street; those who live here and those who may one day call St. Albans home are drawn by what an area has to see and do. Family recreation is a key part of that consideration.

The “greater St. Albans” area has been blessed with three things when it comes to recreation, or sports in general: St. Albans Bay, the Collins-Perley Sports Center, and Hard’ack. The sports center and Hard’ack are less than a mile apart. Collins-Perley is basically a completed project. Hard’ack has yet to reach its stride and its unmatched in potential. It’s home to its own little ski hill, trail system, and cross country and soccer opportunities, all within a stone’s throw of downtown St. Albans.

It’s at the base of the ski slope that the pool would be built. The pool would come with an inflatable dome to make it usable year round. The pool would be a key step in ourmove toward a more complete four-season, multi-sport attraction ... all centered around the outdoors and community health.

A five million dollar price tag any other time would be a challenge to say the least. But with the passage of the local option tax, the revenue generated [$650,000 annually] easily services the debt. A good share of that revenue comes from shoppers visiting from elsewhere, making it even more compelling.

Not only would the community be building out its recreational reputation, the city would also be tending to those for whom getting to Hard’ack is a bit of a trek. A “aqua van” will be in place to pick up passengers at various locations, including Houghton Park and the Barlow Community Center. The intent is to make it easily available to all area residents. Included on the ballot is $250,000 to dress up Houghton Park and to add heft and appeal to a recreational hub on the west end of the city. It will include a splash pad [ground nozzles that spray upwards through a concrete pad.]

As with all proposed projects, the pool has its opponents, just as there were those who have opposed the revitalization of the city’s downtown every step of the way. But looking back, who believes the downtown we had before the revitalization is better than the downtown we have now? No new state office building? No expansion of Mylan? No parking garage? No hotel? No Ace Hardware? No improvements to City Hall? No CCV/NMC on Congress and Main? No new apartments? No streetscape improvements? No upgrades of Taylor Park? Would anyone prefer a grand list tens of millions of dollars less than what the revitalization has generated?

It’s this same vision and leadership that’s responsible for giving us the option to strengthen our recreational offerings at Hard’ack, something important to those who live here and important as a feature families would find appealing in considering St. Albans as a place to call home. Parks and recreation services are often cited as one of the most important determinants as to how “livable” a place is.

That’s what the St. Albans journey has been — making us a stronger, more attractive community.

by Emerson Lynn

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