By ERIN MARTIN
Next year, the Gays Mills Swimming Pool will celebrate its 60-year anniversary. This little gem in the valley is a popular addition to the extended community, but it starting to show it’s age.
Swimming pools aren’t cheap to run or repair, much less replace. That is why a small group has begun work to form a ‘Friends of the Gays Mills Pool’ group in the hopes of helping our pool stay open well into the future.
“This pool was built in 1956,” said Chanda Chellevold, one of the organizers. “The village has maintained this all these years with some help from other communities, but at this point, it needs more help than the village can provide.”
The village of Gays Mills budgeted $2,000 for building repairs this year, something it hasn’t done every year, according to village clerk Dawn McCann. But repairs have run beyond what was allocated, totaling just over $7,000 already this season with repairs still in the offing. And next year, already promises to be expensive.
A small leak from about five years ago, which ran 20 to 30 feet underneath the concrete surrounding the pool, has led to heaving and settling that will require repair next season. No small task.
“We seem to have been pretty fortunate, where we haven’t had major cracks in the pool requiring repair,” according to Jim Chellevold, the Gays Mills Director of Public Works. “The placement of the pool seems to have been pretty ideal, not a lot of settling causing disruption over the years. Other communities haven’t been as lucky.”
If the pool required extensive enough repairs to necessitate replacement, the village would be unlikely to be able to afford it, in the public works director’s estimation.
The pool has been subsidized heavily by the village throughout its history.
Donations of between $4,000 to $7,000 come in every year from individual donors and the supporting communities. Communities currently helping support the pool through contributions are: the villages of Soldiers Grove, Mt. Sterling, Bell Center and Wauzeka; and the townships of Wauzeka, Freeman, Haney, Clayton and Utica.
Yet, even adding in the sale of swim passes, swim lessons, and concessions, the operation still runs at a deficit. In recent years, that deficit has come in anywhere from $23,768 in 2014 to $42,813 in 2012.
Despite the deficit, the pool managers and village officials have worked hard, with help from local civic groups such as the Gays Mills Lions and Gays Mills Sportsmen’s Club, to supply proper equipment and supplies, providing a fun and safe place for recreation and swimming education for people of all ages.
“Everyone is worried that the only workout kids are getting is with their thumbs these days,” said co-organizer Camille Smith, mimicking holding a cell phone in her hands and texting. “Having the pool is a way for our kids to unplug and have fun. Not to mention how valuable the lessons are. We don’t want to go back to the days of kids drowning in farm ponds because they didn’t know how to swim.”
“My kids only know how to swim because of the pool,” Chanda added. “Without the pool, what would our kids be doing in the summer?”
Both women said the existence of the pool was part of what encouraged them to raise their children in the area.
“It’s a wonderful resource, a necessary resource, and unfortunately, an expensive resource,” Camille noted.
The pool’s new manager, Miriam Simons, is working with Chanda and Camille to get the word out that the pool could use more financial help from the extended community.
“It takes time and development just to make sure we have proper staffing,” Simons said. “Programming takes time and is an expense too, but there is room to develop broader use of the pool. There is interest and opportunity for a swim team that we would like to see happen. And this is a useful, healthy tool for adults. I think they forget they can use the pool too.”
Simons has hopes of the pool being able to add aquatic exercise instruction for adults, as well as making the space available for use in therapy.
“We are working on a wish list for the pool, covering everything from pool toys to equipment to maintenance, so people who want to help have an idea of how they can contribute and what it will be used for,” Camille said. “We are working on grant writing for money available to local communities, but anyone who wants to help can make tax-deductible donations at the village office.”
The pool wish list covers basic needs like a replacement for the aging floating rope between the shallow and deep ends of the pool and floatation devices to wanted items such as pool toys, furniture for the poolside, and swim team equipment.
For those who would like to make a donation to the pool, donations can be sent to the Village of Gays Mills, 16381 State Highway 131. Suite 1, Gays Mills, WI 54631 with a note indicating the funds are a donation to the pool.
You can keep abreast of the pool news via Facebook at http://ow.ly/QISSg.
The next pool party will be held on August 20. Cost to attend is only $2. The party hours are 8-10 p.m. for 14 and under and 10-12 for 14 and up.
If you haven’t been to the pool yet, there is still time to visit. The pool is open through August 29.
The final day is Olympic Day, which will involves fun and games throughout the day.
Pool rates for supporting community members:
• Daily Swim – Child (4-11 yrs.) – $1.50
• Daily Swim – Student (12-17) – $2
• Daily Swim – Adult (18 & up) – $2.50