Growing up in Waukesha, Ann Moore recalls biking to the community pool during hot summers and it having a strong sense of community in town.
Now a longtime resident of Sussex with two young children, Moore thinks it's time the village created that same sense of community by building a pool here. After catching wind of a massive renovation at Sussex Village Park, she decided to voice her opinion at a Village Board meeting.
“When I went to the board in August, I just wanted to start the conversation,” Moore said. “They’re looking to do this huge renovation at the Village Park, and my question was, ‘Why isn’t there a pool?’ They said they didn’t know how much a public pool would even cost. I got annoyed.”
In the new plans for the park, there's even a space next to the proposed splash pad described as "future amenity space" near the southwest corner of the park. It's the perfect size for a pool.
Doing some research
After returning from the meeting and feeling like she had hit a brick wall, Moore decided not to quit. She began independently researching the costs associated with building a public pool by calling parks and recreation directors in neighboring communities.
First, Moore talked with someone in Waukesha about costs of operation and revenue. Then she called up a contact in Germantown about their tedious process from failed referendums to a $4 million indoor-outdoor public pool. Moore even contacted a commercial banker to talk about possible tax increases.
“I found out that a basic rectangular pool runs around $1 million,” Moore said. “But the typical aquatic center most places have now days is about $3 million. I understand that’s a pretty big undertaking, especially with the cost of operation, but what population does Sussex need to be at to reach the tipping point?”
According to the 2010 census, the Village of Sussex has more than doubled its population in the last 20 years, now totaling 10,518 people. But is there support for a pool in the village? It's tough to gauge, but only six people so far have “liked” the Facebook page dedicated to getting a pool in Sussex.
Money is the key issue
Population, however, is not a factor when it comes to having a pool, as far as Sussex officials are concerned. Village Administrator Jeremy Smith says the decision really comes down to cash.
“The community needs to actually want to pay for it, and we have not heard that sentiment from the overall community,” he said. “I think there’s some real challenges related to financing and the tax implications of operating a pool.”
Smith said it’s not the cost of the actual pool that’s a problem, but the cost of staffing and maintaining it. He’s sure the residents passionate about the public pool could gather donations for the initial construction, but the ongoing cost would be the real burden.
“I know you can make money through entry fees and concessions, but it doesn’t even come close to what it costs to operate a public pool,” Smith said. “I think the Village Board gave (Moore) some directions about what she needs to do next, but it’ll need to be a grassroots effort for this to be a possibility in Sussex.”
While Smith mentioned Menomonee Park’s quarry as a suitable and safe place for people to swim, Moore says it’s not the same as a community pool in regards to safety.
However, Moore may have to continue waiting for some time. After multiple failed referendums vying to build an indoor pool at Hamilton High School, it appears Smith’s assessment of a community uninterested in a pool has been put to the test before.