Centre supports Kepler Pool rehabilitation

BELLEFONTE — The 46-year-old community pool in Bellefonte now has a fighting chance.

During the Tuesday, Feb. 27 meeting of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, Nittany Valley Joint Recreation Authority (NVJRA) chairman Mike Bonchack asked the board for a letter of support to proceed with applying for a $300,000 Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) grant to help save the pool.

Over the past few weeks, the NVJRA has received enough financial commitments from area municipalities served by the pool to allow the organization to proceed with the grant. The grant application has an April 11 deadline.

“This is a viable use of the funds,” said Commissioner Steve Dershem. “I think it’s a tremendous addition to the Bellefonte community and the entire Bellefonte region. I think it really speaks to the commitment that we as a region have for recreation because I don’t think there’s a viable community out there that does not have a swimming pool.”

Bonchack told The Express that he hopes to have word on whether the grant request has been approved in just a couple weeks after the deadline.

Over the past couple of months, the prospect of having enough financial commitment for matching funds from all four municipalities looked bleak, as all but Walker Township agreed to a designated fair share based on population size. Walker had expressed that the fair share request was too high, but after the other three municipalities committed to higher amounts, the township agreed during its Feb. 7 supervisors meeting to a lesser amount.

According to Bonchack, the commitments by each municipality is now as follows: Bellefonte Borough $140,000, Spring Township $102,300, Benner Township $50,000, and Walker Township $37,500. This gives the pool $329,800 in commitments, which will be spread out over a period of three years.

Over the past two to three years, Bonchack said that the pool has faced a long list of maintenance issues. One major issue that took place on the weekend of July 4 last year was a chlorine failure that required assistance from a hazmat team. Bonchack said there were no injuries or environmental issues from the incident.

Pool replacements needed include a liner, filtration system, stainless steel gutter, piping and a concrete walkway around the pool. Bonchack has said that the pool’s future beyond the current year is highly uncertain if it does not receive the repairs and rehabilitation it needs.

If the grant is awarded and after all of the repair work is done, Bonchack said that moving forward the NVJRA will work on finding a solution to generate enough revenue for facilities at the pool that are more children-friendly.

“We need something to attract families with young kids, some slides and some things like that,” Bonchack said.

All three commissioners agreed to have a letter of support written by the end of the week, which will be in addition to a letter written by Sen. Jake Corman, R-34th District.