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50 years later, what to do about Burnworth?

October 15, 2010

Columbia City’s hot spot for cooling down faces challenges as it enters into the second half of its first century.
The Burnworth Memorial Pool turned 50 this year and is beginning to show its age like a person of the same number of years — with visible and not-so-visible signs of wear and tear from decades of activity and exposure to the elements.
Columbia City Park Director Mark Green said this week the once state-of-the-art swimming facility is becoming obsolete in addition to age-worn.
A committee had been studying options for the pool and recently Green and local resident Mauri Bordner have been spearheading the efforts.
For Green, the problem with the pool is complex and is aggravated by a recent loss in revenue.
“We lost about $30,000 this year, and this was a good year for us,” said Green, citing the unusually hot and dry summer for bringing out more patrons than normal.
“We never know when things are going to break down and repairs are very costly and we actually have some safety issues with our pool,” Green said. “There is just a laundry list of things that need to be done.”
The committee consulted earlier this year with an engineering firm that quoted approximately $35,000 just for a three-phase feasibility study.
“We’re not even close,” said the park director of finding a solution to the pool issue. The obvious two main choices for keeping a community pool in Columbia City are for repairs to be made to the existing pool or to build a brand-new facility.
Renovating the existing pool would have the added costs of bringing the structures and grounds up to codes and standards that didn’t exist when the pool was built.
Another fly in the ointment involves the option of building a brand-new pool.
“We don’t even own the land the pool is built on,” Green said. “The city leases the land from the school (the Whitley County Consolidated School Corporation) for a dollar a year.”
Green said he’s requested the school corporation donate the land to the city, but hasn’t heard back on the request.
If the time line of the original pool project from concept to the first belly flop in the deep end is any indicator, it could be years before the pool is once again state-of-the-art.
Discussion began in the 1940s on the need for a community pool in Columbia City.
It wasn’t until 1954 however, that a group was formed that would organize a grassroots campaign to make the facility a reality.
By the time the city was ready to go pool shopping, private contributions were going to be necessary for the facility to go from dream to reality.
More than half of the final price tag would come from an endowment by one of the city’s prominent citizens.
Job C. Burnworth died Dec. 8, 1957 and willed more than $41,000 to the pool project.
Burnworth’s friend, former Indiana Gov. Ralph F. Gates was not only a witness to the benefactor’s 1957 will that earmarked $41,506.59 to the project, but was also a speaker at the pool’s July 31, 1960 dedication.
The original pool capacity when it was completed in 1960 was 162,075 gallons with a surface area of 4,455 square feet.
Low bid was made by Monticello, Ind.-based Exterior Contracting Co. for $76,800.
The facility was designed by National Pool Equipment Co., Florence, Ala.
Repairs and renovations costing more than $21,000 were made in 1979 when the pool neared its 20th year in existence and in 1982, repairs to the kiddie pool were made to repair cracks and improve the pool’s drainage.
In 1990, a feasibility study was made for the pool’s first “major” renovation. That spruce-up, which included rectifying problems with the liner, filtering system, gutters and pool walls, cost about $440,000.
“These pools (built around the same time) all over the state are shutting down,” Green said. “We’ve kept ours open, but if there were a major problem, we might have to shut it down.”

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