Council weighs closing Brookside Pool

Hannah Grover
Paul Lehrman and his daughter Jessie Lehrman swim together May 30, 2015, at the Brookside Pool in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – With the Brookside Pool in need of numerous repairs, the City Council is considering not opening the nearly 60-year-old facility this year.

The city is planning a community meeting Monday to discuss closing the pool and potentially opening an area of Farmington Lake to swimming. The council will likely vote on whether to close the pool and allow swimming at the lake during its meeting Tuesday evening.

"These are the kind of decisions that have an element of nostalgia," Mayor Tommy Roberts said during a council work session Tuesday morning.

Roberts said he has been swimming at Brookside Pool since it opened in 1958 when he was 7 years old.

The age of the pool and its failing equipment has made it so repairing the pool may cost nearly as much as replacing it altogether. The pool is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year, and sees an average of four to six lap swimmers and 160 to 170 regular users a day. Last year, failing equipment caused the pool to be closed on even-number days.

When a lateral line to the sand filter system broke, it caused the filtration not to function properly and pushed sand into the pool. That is one of various problems that have created potentials for health problems at the pool, officials said.

"It's not worth the risk from a health and safety standpoint," said Cory Styron, the director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department.

Styron told councilors it would cost about $125,000 to make the repairs needed to open this year. And even then, he said, the pool may not pass inspection.

The New Mexico Environment Department inspects the pool each year prior to its opening. Styron told councilors that if the pool had been inspected during certain days last year, it would not have been permitted to remain open and that for the past four years, the PRCA has been uncertain if the pool would pass an inspection.

"We have danced doing everything that we've felt was ethical and legal," he said.

To provide an outdoor swimming option, the city may open a portion of Farmington Lake to swimming. It would cost the city approximately $32,000 to get the lake ready for swimming and operations of the lake facility would cost about $30,000, as opposed to $64,000 to operate the Brookside Pool.

That would be a short-term solution while the city meets with community members to discuss future development of an aquatic feature at Brookside Park, such as repairing the pool, replacing it or building another water feature, such as a water park with features like a lazy river.

Five community members attended the work session to voice their opinion about the Brookside Pool. One of those community members, Julie Firestone, said a pool like Brookside is important for teaching children how to swim.

"I hope that we don't see these pools go away," she said.

While he supports swimming at Farmington Lake, Councilor Sean Sharer said he did not think it could replace the Brookside Pool because of its location.

"The Brookside Pool, my whole life, has been right there in the neighborhood where kids can walk there," Sharer said.

Although it will not replace a neighborhood pool, Sharer said the idea of opening the lake to swimmers does fit in with the city's vision for Farmington Lake, which includes expanding recreational opportunities.

"I actually think that it will become so popular that the public demands it stays," Councilor Gayla McCulloch said about opening a swimming area at the lake.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.