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Fighting for a Pool in Sussex

For one Sussex woman, a community pool seems like the obvious next development for the rapidly growing village. But village officials say they haven't seen much interest among residents.

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 at , 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 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 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 , it appears Smith’s assessment of a community uninterested in a pool has been put to the test before.

Craig October 06, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Why is it that the government should provide frugalities like a swimming pool for those too tight to spend money for their own? Get your own pool, pay for it yourself, and leave the taxpayor out of it. Providing daycare for parents who want to escape reponsibilities is not a reason for a pool. Get a babysitter then!
Andy Ambrosius (Editor) October 06, 2011 at 01:50 AM
That's a really interesting way of looking at this, Craig. I didn't think of that while writing the article, and it makes a fair amount of sense. I grew up with a pool, and cleaning just four months out of the year was enough to convince me never to build my own as an adult.
Kelly October 06, 2011 at 11:31 AM
I think a pool is a great idea at Sussex park. I know that we can drive to another town to use theirs, but it would be nice to have one if it is a possibility. I do not agree with the comment about "parents escaping responsibilities", as I would never just leave my 9 year old there. I hope this becomes s reality for Sussex.
Jack October 06, 2011 at 11:36 AM
No, Craig's argument doesn't make a fair amount of sense. It's a knee-jerk reaction to something the writer doesn't like. If you peel back Craig's basic premise, he could substitute playground, tennis court, bike path, library or school for that matter. The reason the government provides "frugalities" (?) like these is because they are community assets. And to accuse these people of wanting the pool simply to escape their responsibilities is terribly mean-spirited and petty, even for a "taxpayor" (sic) like you.
Sofia Reino October 06, 2011 at 01:18 PM
I am a Mother of two and I have been saying for a long time that a community pool here in Sussex would be a fantastic idea. And much as Kelly wrote I do not see a pool as a babysitter as I would NEVER allow my kids there alone. But not only for kids as also for adults to interact with one another. In Ankeny, IA, they have a community pool that is always filled with people, teenagers have a chance to get summer jobs, they have a small snack-bar, and they rent the facility at night time for parties.
Craig October 06, 2011 at 03:30 PM
I didn't say that parents would drop their kid off and leave. Soccer mom social hour is more what I was pointing to. Mom gets distracted and a kid drowns, then the pool attendant is blamed for a lack of attention. This happens every year in public pools. This so called asset to the community is a huge liability.
Andy Ambrosius (Editor) October 06, 2011 at 03:36 PM
But don't you think a public pool wil be safer than the quarry? Obviously a public pool is a positive thing for the community, but like the village administrator said, people have to be wiling to deal with a tax increase.
Craig October 06, 2011 at 04:12 PM
On a playground if mom is distracted and looks away for 90 seconds the kid doesn't drown. Don't compare apples to oranges.
Craig October 06, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Andy...yes a public pool is safer than a quarry. A private pool is safer than a public pool too. Why? Because people do not assume someone else will watch their child swimming in their own pool.
Rick Vodicka October 06, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Sussex has a public swimming location...its Lannon Quarry. Budgets are being cut everywhere, housing is down, people are losing their jobs, but hey, let's build a pool. That makes no sense. I'm thankful that the Village Board has exercised some common sense and not jumped on this bandwagon. Comparing providing park space and playground equipment to building, maintaining, and insuring a pool is not even close to being a similar argument. Government's role is to provide basic services to its citizens, not expensive luxuries.
Jack October 06, 2011 at 05:17 PM
As far as safety goes, according to the CDC, among children ages 1-4, most drowning deaths occur in residential swimming pools.
Jack October 06, 2011 at 05:39 PM
I understand Rick's reasoning. I'm not sold on the necessity of the pool myself, but it's worth exploring, even if the answer is no. I just took offense to Craig's mean-spirited comment about how the people who were interested in the pool "wanted to escape their responsibilities" for childcare. That was just a cheap shot.
Craig October 06, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Well Jack, that would stand to reason considering most communities have many private pools. It isn't rocket science. My 'cheap shot' as you called it comes from first hand experience. Mom claimed she only looked away for a minute...but conversation had her looking away for 5 minutes. Her focus of angst immediately went toward the pool attendant (not a lifeguard) blaming them. If you like to swim, put a pool in your backyard. Don't expect the whole community to pay for your pool. I like to golf, so should I expect the community to foot the bill for me to golf for free?
Steve October 06, 2011 at 06:30 PM
That is a bad age group to compare IMO. Residential pools are deeper and accessible even in the winter. If you were taking your child that young to a public pool it would be a "kiddy pool". Shallow and parent would be there supervising. Not to mention the population gap like Craig pointed.
Jack Burke October 06, 2011 at 10:47 PM
It's a cheap shot because there are people--real people who live in this community--who think this is important. And your first comment is all they want to do is "escape their responsibilities." And as for golf, the county as three public courses. Should they be shut down? Who says a pool would be free? Waukesha has two and they charge.
Craig October 06, 2011 at 11:58 PM
I am so mean spirited and I am not even a Republican...and that's a fact Jack. I based my comment on real ife experience- something you must not know Jack about. As for escaping responsibilities- put a kid in a pool and they do not interrupt your coffee clutch. Therefore you are easily engrossed in conversation, and may think you are watching the kid when in fact- they are floating at the bottom.
Kelly October 07, 2011 at 03:40 AM
What makes you think that parents would not be watching their child? You must not have any children, because most (and yes, I say most) parents would not let their child out if their sight. And do you think parents are going to let their children go in the water by themselves if they can't swim, or don't have a floatation device on? Sounds like you are just trying to stir the pot. Again, if it would be affordable, I think a community pool is a great asset to the community. And like someone posted earlier, it would give jobs to some local residents.
Renee October 07, 2011 at 04:00 AM
The notion of having no safety precautions when operating a swimming pool is ludicrous. Having Lifeguards on duty as well as other safety precautions, would have to be a part of the budget. There is fear-mongering about one personal account of a tragic incident being posted that is clouding the issue. To the Village of Sussex residents; Do you realize how many pools there are in the area? Not a whole lot. We have multiple swim teams and clubs that are in dire need of space for their teams to practice, train, and even host meets. Yes, as a mom of a High School (who, BTW is on the Menomonee Falls/Hamilton co-op team) and Club Swimmer, you may think I'm biased. However, with the right pool size and amenities, the Village could be getting revenue by renting the facility to these teams/clubs. Has anyone on the Village Board (or anyone who is willing to do this) thought of maybe asking some of your bigger businesses about contributing to this? You keep on touting about tax payer expenses like that is your only avenue.
Craig October 08, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Now if lifeguards are provided that adds another cost: Liability insurance. Not only would Sussex need the coverage, but also the County. If renting out the pool was profitable, it would be done by private enterprise. Seems to me that a small group of liberals want another freebie- while making everyone pay for that freebie. Given the current economy, one has to wonder how this topic can even be seriously discussed.

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