Bellefonte OK with tax to fund pool upgrades

Kepler Pool in Bellefonte on Monday, June 16, 2014.
Kepler Pool in Bellefonte on Monday, June 16, 2014. CDT photo

Kepler Pool in Bellefonte is facing the same problems that other small local pools have, namely aging facilities and expensive repairs or upgrades, and Borough Council is open to a new tax to help pay for it.

The Nittany Valley Joint Recreation Authority knows what needs to be done. Things need to be fixed. Things need to be replaced, like the kiddie pool that was closed in 2009 because it didn’t comply with new federal requirements, leaving parents with preschoolers high and dry. And the 43-year-old pool needs to have new life, a reason to bring more people in to take a dip.

Howard Long was at Bellefonte Borough Council on Monday night presenting the authority’s idea to do all of that, taking the plunge with a $2.4 million renovation project and a proposal to pay for it with a brand new tax.

The authority represents Walker, Benner and Spring townships in addition to the borough. All of them have now heard the same proposal that would levy a $10 per capita recreation tax on residents to help fund the pool upgrades as well as other recreation projects in the other municipalities.

“I want you to put on your vision of what the pool could be,” Long said to council, painting a picture of a splash pad and a zero-depth sloped entry, improved facilities and an overall waterpark feel, similar to the Park Forest and Welch projects in State College.

Right now, the pool is funded by a $1 per resident appropriation from each municipality, providing about $21,000 per year for operations and maintenance. The new tax would bring that to about $219,000 to pay for a loan that would be paid off over 12-15 years.

“This is not a car wash and bake sale repair,” Long said.

He said the other municipalities have “had good questions” about the proposal but did not give immediate feedback.

Bellefonte did. Long presented his proposal during the work session. Later, during council’s voting session, Finance Committee Chairwoman Gay Dunne asked for a motion of support for the idea. It passed unanimously.

Long said that all four municipalities will have to support the project for it to work. If even one opts out of the tax, the idea is sunk.

However, quick action on the project could also save money — and preserve cooperation. Long said that when the project was first examined in 2009, the price tag was $1.7 million.

Councilman Paul DeCusati urged action.

“We have all the municipalities working together. We don’t want to wait another year studying this,” he said.