The Township Committee voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve a pilot program to open the Maplewood Community Pool on Memorial Day weekend, and to add an additional $30 to membership rates to cover associated costs. The vote will be memorialized at the next meeting on March 5.
Typically, the pool opens on Father's Day weekend. The new plan will mean the pool will be open for a total of seven additional days, or three extra weekends.
Before the vote was taken, the four other committee members expressed concerns with the amount of the increase and with raising the membership rates on the heels of last year's 30 percent increase.
(Last year, fees increased to pay for more than $1 million in bonds issued to pay for improvements including new waterslides, a new pool deck with better drainage, new dive platforms and diving boards, and handicapped accessible ramps into the pool.)
"Remember the people who are recommending this are (the) pool users, not the township committee," said Mayor Vic DeLuca, referring to the Pool Advisory Committee, which represents pool members. The committee recommended the change in response to a pool survey conducted last October wherein a number of participants requested an earlier start to the pool season.
DeLuca also said the members of the Pool Advisory Committee had discussed the potential for higher pool attendance this summer due to the damage to the Jersey Shore from Hurricane Sandy, and the fact that some South Orange residents now have the option to join the Maplewood Pool. He also noted that the South Orange Pool was opening earlier this year as well.
India Larrier voted against the measure. "We just raised pool fees significantly last year," she told Patch in an email. "Last night we passed an $18 per household sewer fee increase. We have just begun work on the purchase of the Women's Club. All these things, I believe, are necessary for the continued well being of the Township. Right now, we are in jeopardy of having a tax rate above our 2% desired cap. While I realize that not all the above impact taxes, in the end, it comes out of the same pockets. I just felt that, right now, raising pool fees again was too much to ask and too soon."
Last year's membership numbers dropped to 2,041, from 2,165 in 2011, said Recreation Director Keith Knudsen in a phone interview with Patch.
"Are we going to have more people walk?" asked committeeman Jerry Ryan.
Marlon K. Brownlee agreed. "Membership did drop off last year, even after adding amenities."
In the end, however, Ryan, Brownlee and Kathy Leventhal all voted in favor of the proposal.
Early bird registration will begin March 15, said Knudsen.
In other business, the committee voted to add a sewer charge of $18 per unit dwelling to cover the township's legal costs in the NJEDP v. Occidental Petroleum lawsuit.
Also, after hearing testimony from a number of residents of Woodland Road against a proposed ordinance to add merchant parking to the street, the committee voted 5-0 to table the measure until the March 5 meeting.
Finally, the committee discussed the 2013-14 capital budget. Patch will report more on that in a separate, upcoming article.