When the town of Salina pools opened for the season on Friday, June 22, Christine Wood’s kids planned to do the same thing they do every summer: swim as much as they could in their neighborhood pool at Electronics Park.
“My son wanted to go back for the evening, so my husband drove him back, and it was all closed up. I tried looking up the hours, and I couldn’t find them,” Wood said. “There’s a big permanent sign on the wall with the hours posted, saying the pool is open until 8 p.m., but it had closed at 5:45.”
So Wood posted a question on the town’s Facebook page, asking if the hours had permanently changed.
When the town set its budget last November, in order to save money and limit tax increases for residents, the board agreed to cut the hours at the town pools by two hours every day, closing at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
“Through the 2012 budget process, the town board was looking for places to decrease the budget in a number of different ways,” said Supervisor Mark Nicotra. “We looked at our pool hours in general, and we found that pool use during the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. was 80 percent lower than the afternoon hours.”
Nicotra said the decision to cut those hours is saving the town a total of $27,000 in the 2012 budget.
He said that the new pool hours were publicized in the parks department’s newsletters and on their website.
Wood, however, was also disappointed that more of an effort wasn’t made to publicize the change to the hours.
“The town never made any kind of announcement,” she said. “A lot of people still don’t know.”
Nicotra acknowledged that he had received some calls about the change in hours.
“We have received a couple of calls, but not more than a couple,” he said. “But again, the pools just opened, and the weather turned quite a bit different this weekend than it was the early part of last week.”
Wood said she suspected that more people would be upset once they realized that the change had been made.
“I know of many families in my neighborhood who will be saddened by it,” she said. “I don’t think the crowds were that low. We were there many evenings, and there were always quite a few people there. I have no clue why they decided to do this.”
Wood said the pool has proved to be a great convenience for her family.
“My oldest has a slight weight issue,” she said. “My kids got an Xbox for Christmas, which I’m regretting now. It was a present from my sister. It’s tough to get them to exercise. But my oldest especially loves swimming. He’ll swim all day. It really cuts his weight down.”
And it’s not just good for her kids.
“I have arthritis, and swimming really helps me, and so does sitting in the sun while my son swims,” she said. “We can’t afford a pool, and with my health issues, I can’t handle the extra work. It’s so nice that it’s provided by the town. I was shocked when they cut it down.”
Wood also noted that Salina’s parks programming isn’t as extensive as other neighboring towns, but she said having the pools made up for that.
“Salina doesn’t offer as much as other towns in the community to begin with,” she said. “We receive flyers from school on all the activities and programs for children who live in the town of Clay, and Salina offers very little in comparison. The pools are the main thing. We’ve made good use of the pool every year, and although the kids can use it during daytime, we’ll not often have the chance for the whole family to swim together.”
In order to drum up support for her cause, Wood has started a Facebook page (Facebook.com/ReinstateTownOfSalinasPoolHours).
“I’d very much like them to reinstate their hours,” she said. “I asked if there was a chance, but they said it was not very likely and they were set for the year. I don’t know if I can make it happen for this year, but I’m going to try.”
Nicotra said the town would consider the possibility, but it would be difficult, given the town’s budget.
“Certainly, if we get enough feedback about it, going into 2013, we’ll look into it to see if we should keep the hours the same or extend them again,” he said. “Certainly, we’ll look at anything. It’s not something we would ignore. Whether we would extend the hours would be challenging, because we didn’t budget for it.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.