BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Mayor Angie Devanney led off the Jan. 15 council meeting with some bad news. The Berkeley Heights Community Pool will not be opening this summer. She then turned the floor over to the President and CEO of The Summit Area Y Paul Kieltyka.
Kieltyka explained why but, while for some the news was a total surprise, for others, members of the Y and those who peruse the Summit Area Y’s website for news, it wasn’t. On the site under news, was a release Looking Forward to 2020 - Updates from the Berkeley Heights YMCA , dated Jan. 4, 2019. Inside this release was a letter dated Jan. 1, 2019, which apparently went out to YMCA members with the news, although that wasn’t the headline, which read “Construction is underway.”
The news, which was in the fourth paragraph, reads: “Thus we regret to inform you the pool will not open for the summer of 2019. We hope this advance notice will give you flexibility to make alternative plans for the upcoming 2019 summer. We look forward to welcoming you to our state-of-the-art facility and pool in 2020.”
The letter also included options for people who want to join a pool for the summer, including the Summit YMCA, Berkeley Swim Club, New Providence Community Pool and Summit Family Aquatic Center, with links to each of those options. It was signed by Tiffany Escott.
At the meeting, Kieltyka said there was no way to finish the pool and have the building done by May or June. “All along we went under the assumption we could build the pool and have it open in the summer” while there was still construction going on at the building and “we knew there was going to be logistical challenges” to do that, he said.
He called the decision to keep the pool in its original location a “mis-judgement” on the timeline – once we moved the pool to the back, it became more complicated, he explained. The internal team decided in December that the pool would not open in 2019. Original plans called for the pool to be on the site of the old pool. It has since been moved further to the right, where the tennis courts were.
“We did not do the greatest job in that communication and I take full responsibility for that,” he said.
He apologized to everyone involved for having let them down but reassured everyone that despite the setback, the pool is still going to be built and “will be spectacular.”
Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley if the Y had “negotiated with other pools” to help members find a new place.
Kieltyka said “yes,” and offered the names of clubs in the letter. There are 525 memberships – made up of individuals and families – who will be looking for a new pool for one year. He conceded that “as a businessman this was a very painful decision.”
Councilman Stephen Yellin asked if the failure to open for the summer of 2019 would violate any written agreements.
Kieltyka said “No,” while it was “our intention to open the pool” in 2019, he had made no promises and there were no written agreements. “I hope I am right we are going to be open in ‘20 but something awful could happen” … and he hopes people would understand if that did happen.
Kielyka approached the Berkeley Heights Township Council on Jan. 10, 2017 with a proposal to save the pool and the Berkeley Heights YMCA. The outdoor pool, which was built in 1964, had fallen into disrepair and had been managed by the Y during the summer of 2016.
Kielyka said pool officials asked the Y to continue to manage the pool, which it was willing to do, but to do so, the Y would need to spend about $225,000 to repair the leaking pool so it could open in 2017. Kielyka said it would make the repairs, but only if the town would make a commitment that the Y could lease the land and build a new facility for the Y within the next 30 months.
On Tuesday, April 4, the township approved the lease aggrement.
On July 21, 2018, the Planning Board approved the site plan application.