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Lansford votes for work on pool; will open this summer

Lansford Borough Council has officially committed to reopening the town’s swimming pool for the 2020 season.

Council members voted 4-3 during a special meeting Monday night to move ahead with plans to reopen the pool which has been closed since 2015 due to water leaks.

“People want to see the pool open, so I think that’s first and foremost. Whatever we can do with the money here to support that will be helpful,” said Jared Soto, vice president of Friends of the Lansford Pool.

Between the fundraising of local volunteers, a state grant, and an existing pool account, the borough has more than $127,000 to spend on repairs.

That wasn’t enough for the full renovation, which the borough envisioned a few years ago, but council members feel it would be enough to pinpoint the leaks and address other maintenance issues at the pool.

“I think, based upon the money we have right now, we have enough to make the repairs, provided what is going to happen with the leak,” said council President Bruce Markovich.

Residents of Lansford and surrounding communities, including members of Friends of the Lansford Pool, filled borough hall for the special meeting.

They shared stories about what the pool has meant to them and the communities. But they also talked about toll that time and subpar maintenance have taken on a pool which dates to the 1940s, and was last renovated in 1981.

Nick Ritzko of Coaldale recalled receiving swimming lessons at the pool from a Panther Valley gym teacher. He said it likely saved his life when he fell into a creek while fishing as a youth.

“He taught me how to doggy paddle and swim, and save my life. Otherwise I would have been dead,” he said.

Mayor Michele Bartek said the pool is a symbol of the sacrifice of miners who donated their pay to help build the pool.

“I would like to see it grow. We have so many things we can do down there between the pool and the park, and I think it should be used for the youth of this area,” she said.

There was some discussion as to whether council is considering all of the costs of the project.

Lenny Kovach, a former councilman, said one of the pool buildings is deteriorating, and two tanks in the pump house need to be replaced.

George “Smokey” Krajnak Jr., who managed the facility before it closed, said attracting lifeguards is very difficult. He pointed to Mauch Chunk Lake, which is also having trouble attracting lifeguards.

The council members who voted against the project said they were concerned about the potential cost of the project, and whether the borough could afford it.

Irma Leibensberger said the borough needs money for a new borough garage and a work truck.

Martin Ditsky pointed out that many in the crowd came from Coaldale and Nesquehoning. He speculated that if those residents went to their own borough councils and asked for the money to reopen the pool, that those officials would tell them the cost was too great.

Bob Silver lamented the fact that the other towns in the valley stopped supporting the pool financially many years ago. He pointed out that when it originally opened in 1941, it was actually the Panther Valley Recreation Center.

“It’s our area. When I grew up, all three towns partnered. And I see no reason why we couldn’t do it again,” he said. “I’ll support it without those communities, but I think it would be wonderful to have valley cooperation.”

The next step for council is finding a contractor to pinpoint the leaks so they can fix them. Markovich said he has received two proposals, but council members asked that they wait until council’s next regular meeting, on March 11, to vote on them.

Meanwhile, members of the friends group thanked the council for voting in favor of the project. They said they are committed to continue to raise funds up until the pool reopens, and afterward, and encouraged the public to attend their future meetings.

“We look forward to hopefully continuing to move the ball forward, and thanks to the Lansford Council and those who voted in favor of it,” Halenar said.

Lansford Council is moving ahead with repairs to the community pool. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO