Howard County Times
Howard County

Plans to heat Columbia's Dorsey Hall pool withdrawn

The Columbia Association has dropped its plan to heat the Dorsey Hall pool year-round after a flurry of complaints from nearby residents and members of the Columbia aquatics community, CA Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldman said Friday.

An outpouring of community concerns, including safety, from the nearby Dorsey Hall Homeowners Association prompted the CA Board of Directors to delay voting on the project, which Goldman said led to the project's withdrawal.


Part of the reason the Dorsey Hall site was selected was a pending construction project to improve the pool's bathhouse and nearby meeting house. By combining the two enhancements into one capital project, Goldman hoped to save money on construction costs. After the board delayed voting on the proposal at a meeting Thursday night, CA decided to move forward with the previously approved meeting house enhancements.

"One of the consequences of pulling the proposal is it takes Dorsey out of the running," Goldman said.


However, the concept of heating an outdoor pool for year-round use is still being explored by CA, Goldman said, with more options scheduled to be presented to the board in the fall.

"There may well be a heated pool, but that's something staff is going to take a hard look at," he said.

The concept of heating one of CA's existing 23 outdoor pools for year-round use was introduced in May, and was pitched as a low-cost, short-term solution to addressing CA's immediate need for more indoor pool space.

Currently, CA opereates four indoor pools located at the Swim Center and all three of CA's gyms.

The proposed alternative of enclosing one of CA's outdoor pools, which was recommended by CA's aquatics consultants following a nine month study, could cost between $5 and $7 million in capital expenses. The estimated cost for the Dorsey Hall project was $500,000, with another $150,000 in annual maintenance.

Because of other capital projects, including a new downtown fitness club, the renovation of Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, and plans to build a new indoor tennis facility, Goldman said CA will not be suited to commit funding to an indoor pool in the near future.

"Looking at our other projects, there doesn't seem to be room for a $7 million enclosed pool, but the board can always make room," he said.

Heated pool under fire


The proposal to heat the pool at Dorsey Hall drew the ire of community members, including the Dorsey Hall homeowner's association, which neighbors the pool, the Columbia Clippers, CA's youth swim organization, and CA's Aquatics Advisory Committee.

The seven member Aquatics Advisory Committee, which was formed as part of the Aquatics Master Plan, said it "do not oppose" a heated pool, as long as it does not delay construction of additional indoor pool space.

Stephanie Costello, the president of the parent board for the Columbia Clippers, said the organization does not have enough information to endorse heating a pool.

"We strongly urge the CA Board to seriously consider the recommendations of the Aquatics Master Plan and make a decision regarding funding the proposal to enclose the Locust Park pool," said Costello, referring to the consultants recommendation to enclose Locust Park pool in Long Reach.

"Until that time, any other ideas or proposals are perceived to be an undermining the time and effort expended by the Aquatics Task Force and the community."

Costello said heating an outdoor pool would not provide a benefit to the Clippers, while enclosing an existing pool or building a new indoor facility would.


Owen Brown resident Susan Coghlan, who said her family of four is active in the swim community, said the heated pool would only serve a segment of the aquatics community, and would not be a viable short-term solution.

"(It) is nothing more than a Band-Aid attempt to address a very real problem," she said. "It is a waste of money and will do nothing but avert funds and delay projects that need immediate attention."