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Dorsey's Search backs heating Columbia outdoor pool year-round

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Representatives from the village of Dorsey's Search are backing a Columbia Association recommendation to heat the outdoor Dorsey Hall pool year-round, but are concerned the project could delay an important expansion project.

A $200,000 capital project to expand the village's meeting house and bathhouse has been approved, but CA would likely delay the project to coincide construction with the pool improvements, which still are in a conceptual stage.

"This is something that my village does support, but the meeting room expansion is something that means a lot to (Dorsey's Search) ... That has been put off now in anticipation of heating this pool," said Tom Coale, who resigned as CA Board member from Dorsey's Search July 1 to seek public office.

Construction on the meeting house expansion was scheduled to begin this fall.

If the board approves to heat the Dorsey Hall pool, construction would be put off until September 2014 with the pool opening in time for the 2015 season, according to CA Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldman.

Coale said he hopes the board "would do whatever it could to get back on track with the meeting room expansion."

According to Goldman, one of the reasons Dorsey's Search was selected as a site was the expansion of the nearby meeting house, which would allow CA construction cost savings.

Goldman added that the pool's accessibility to natural gas and ample parking made it an attractive site for an outdoor pool heated year-round.

Hot water

While the Dorsey's Search village board favors the project, others on the CA Board and in the community feel that heating the pool is not a viable alternative to enclosing one of CA's existing 23 pools.

"I am very strongly against taking (an enclosure) off the table," said Cynthia Coyle, representative from Harper's Choice. "In and of itself, I think (heating an outdoor pool) is great. ... I'm not so sure it would satisfy the need we really talked about with the Aquatics Master Plan."

In 2011, the CA Board commissioned an Aquatics Master Plan to look at the future of CA's water amenities. After being accepted and filed in 2012, two feasibility studies were commissioned, one of which looked at enclosing an existing outdoor pool in an attempt to create more indoor pool space.

In January, aquatics consultants presented the CA Board with options for enclosure. The board narrowed their choices to Dasher Green in Owen Brown and Locust Park in Long Reach. Cost estimates for the enclosure ranged between $4.5 and $7 million. According to the consultants, CA had "an immediate need" for more indoor pool space.

"Let's not have this discussion in a vacuum," said Michael Cornell, representative from River Hill. "This effectively puts consideration for the other two pools off the table for the time being."

Goldman said the heated outdoor pool would act as a short-term solution, allowing the board to put off the enclosure while CA develops other capital projects.

"In the next five years we have $60 million in capital projects committed. I don't think this board is going to want to commit another $7 million," Goldman said. "At a relatively low cost we can provide additional water space in the interim."

Goldman said construction estimates for heating the outdoor pool are around $452,000.

'Not that crazy'

While some board members debate the merits of the heated outdoor pool as a interim substitute for an enclosure, most agree the concept is something that the community will support.

"This is not that crazy of an idea at all. I think it's very viable," said Gregg Schwind, representative from Hickory Ridge.

"Right now, we don't have an all-year-round outdoor pool. I think that is something a lot of people would enjoy," said Coyle.

In addition to site visits to outdoor pools in Denver, Colo., CA staff said they have interviewed officials from the YMCA in Silver Spring, which has one of the two heated year-round outdoor pools in the state.

Joshua Smith, Aquatics Director at the YMCA in Silver Spring, said their pool sees between 25-50 swimmers a day during the winter months.

"It's very popular. If we took it away our members would be furious," said Smith.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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