Benwood officials took the plunge and invested about $42,000 to improve the city's swimming pool just as some other communities are opting to keep their pools closed.
The project has progressed swimmingly, officials said, and the pool is set to open today at Benwood City Park despite the prediction of cooler temperatures this weekend. On Monday, Memorial Day, admission will be free.
Employees of Johnson Boiler Works in Benwood worked this week to install new items purchased for the pool by the city. These include two new sliding boards, a 12-foot diving board, a 3-foot diving board and a rock wall. The pool also is to be heated this year.
Photo by Joselyn King
John Varner, manager of the pool at Benwood City Park, keeps watch as workers prepare the pool to open today.
About $12,000 was raised for the pool renovation from private individuals, said Mayor Ed Kuca, while another $10,000 came through a state grant secured by Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall. Consol Energy also donated $8,000, and a total of about $30,000 was collected for the project, he continued.
Kuca estimated the total price of the upgrades at about $42,000, and he also noted the Benwood Pool costs about $70,000 annually to operate.
Kuca acknowledged the pool would not make back the money the city has invested.
"That's why a lot of cities are closing their pools," he said. "There is no way for a city to make money on a municipal pool."
Still, residents have indicated to him that they want more activities at Benwood City Park, and that is why the city hired John Varner as a full-time pool manager last year, Kuca said.
Varner started events such as "moonlight swims" at the park, and the first moonlight swim for 2013 is scheduled for June 7. Swimming lessons are offered at the pool, and seniors can participate in "Health Walk for Life" events there.
"Our goal is to provide a safe, enjoyable atmosphere," Varner said.
Kuca added bookings for the shelters at the pool are "almost full."
"We are happy with how the park is situated," he said. "People can eat and watch their children play in the park without ever having to leave the shelter."
Those wanting to rent a shelter should contact the city clerk's office at 304-232-4320.
Councilman John Kazemka said he was surprised to learn just how much it costs to run the pool.
"I knew it didn't make money, but I didn't think it was anything like this," he said. "We are spending a lot of money on the pool, and I hope people enjoy it."
Police Chief Frank Longwell said Benwood officials didn't have a choice but to make improvements to their pool.
"If we do nothing, it falls into disrepair," he noted.