SPRINGFIELD, NJ — In an email update posted this afternoon, Springfield Mayor Chris Capodice announced that the municipal pool would remain closed for the foreseeable future in the 2020 summer season.
As Capodice noted in the update, the topic of whether the pool would reopen has been on residents minds since the township committee meeting on May 12, when the decision was made to keep it closed through the end of year. That decision impacted the Springfield Community Pool, Pool Day Camp, Swim Team, Swim Lessons, and Chisholm Playground Camp.
He explained that the township committee made the decision for a number of reasons, including protecting residents, pool patrons, staff, and summer program participants from the spread and infection of COVID-19, minimizing the known and unknown risks of operating our pool and summer programs in the current climate and providing for the short and long term financial stability of the self-sustaining pool utility.
On the point of finances, Capodice noted that in 2019, Springfield had to cover the financial shortfalls of the pool with $150,000 from the Township’s General Fund.
According to Capodice, budgetary shortfalls have been common since the new construction of the pool house. As a result of the pandemic, the township projected a $350,000 gap in the pool budget that the Township would need to subsidize from the FY 2021 budget.
"We hope you can appreciate that we did not take on the further financial burden of planning for a pool and camp season that, at the time, was still a major uncertainty due to the state's guidance," Capodice said. "Since then, we have been pivoting to exploring exciting alternative summer experiences such as drive-in movies, expanded outdoor dining, virtual camp options, and late-summer sports clinics, as well as town-wide food drives and senior citizen shopping services to help our most vulnerable residents."
In his email, Capodice also talked about what the state had laid out in terms of guidelines for pool reopenings, and noted that the township would not shy away from following state-mandated guidance, or from providing quality and affordable services and amenities to residents.
"But doing so after one month of moving in a different direction -- and already late in the summer planning process -- leaves us faced with both the uncertainty of membership and camp enrollment and statewide health fluctuations; and the certainty of a major financial deficit in the hundreds of thousands of dollars even if we open the pool and camp," Capodice said.
As a result of the new information gleaned since the May 12 meeting, Capodice announced that the pool would remain closed for the time being.
"The Springfield Community Pool depends on revenue gained from pool membership, camp registrations, concession operator, private usage contracts, and party rentals," Capodice said. "We do not believe it is in the best interest of the Township, or the pool, to shift what would be a sizable deficit to pool members and camp families in the form of significant fee hikes in an uncertain 2021 and beyond, or to regular taxpayers whose property taxes would likely have to cover this deficit in 2021."
However, in his email, Capodice also noted that the Business Administrator and the Director of Recreation have been in conversation with third-parties about the possibility of surveying residents and implementing camp programs and/or operating the pool at less financial risk to the Township and in less time in the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis.
"As soon as we have more information on potential developments, I will share them with you," he added.