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Durham panel jumps in, gives 4-2 nod to UNH pool plan

Union Leader Correspondent

March 19. 2014 9:33PM

DURHAM — The outdoor pool working committee — which includes officials from University of New Hampshire, town leaders and residents — voted 4-2 Wednesday to recommend the town council support the university’s plan to replace the existing 1938 pool with a more modern one.

On Monday, Mark Rubenstein, vice president of student and academic services, asked town officials to support the university’s resolution, which calls for a pool between 14,000 to 16,000 square feet.

Rubenstein, who was at the working group’s meeting Wednesday, said the university decided in July to close the pool at the end of the summer season in 2013 due to long-standing concerns — including structural issues brought up by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services.

“It is out of compliance,” Rubenstein said, adding there were also concerns about health and safety issues.

Rubenstein said the university “is not flexible on the matter.”

During a brief public input session, lifelong resident Sally Ford begged university officials to reconsider closing the pool for good.

“I’ll be 75 in May and I’ve been swimming in it my whole life,” Ford said, adding she’s never even gotten a splinter.

“They’re talking about this baby pool and they have the Taj Mahal,” Ford said of the 42,000-square-foot, Depression-eara pool. “They’re mad.”

Kenny Rotner, co-founder of the Friends of the UNH Outdoor Pool Group, was one of the two votes against supporting the proposal.

“There are so many ways to reinvigorate the current pool,” Rotner said.

Town Administrator Todd Selig, who also voted in favor of the proposal, said the town council plans to consider the matter again April 7.

The university will pay for the project — which is estimated at $4.4 million — if the trustees approve it April 18.

If approved, the project would take about six months to complete and could be ready for the summer of 2015.

Doug Bencks, director of campus planning at UNH, said the university is also considering expanding the nearby recreation center. He said the trustees could consider that issue as early as October.

“There are five different options — they’re all still on the table,” Bencks said, adding he plans to evaluate which location for the center would create the least amount of shade on the pool.

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