Opponents — and there have been many over the years — of efforts to build a public pool in Southampton Town have often argued that a region with so many sheltered bay beaches and a handful of freshwater ponds, has no need for another expensive public works project.
But they could not be more wrong. The fact that Southampton Town is surrounded by water — water that has claimed more than its share of local kids who grew up not knowing how to keep themselves afloat — is more than enough reason for the town to have a pool, where its children can be taught a survival skill that can also be enjoyed for recreation.
Now, Southampton Town Aquatics & Recreation, a group that proposed a public pool on the former Southampton College campus in the mid-1990s, is going public with a new proposal to build a state-of-the art indoor aquatics center at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays.
STAR wants to build a center with a 25-meter pool for competition, a second pool for senior citizens and recreational swimmers that would include elements of a small-scale indoor water park for children, and finally a third pool for physical therapy.
The project will not come cheaply. Josephine DeVincenzi, the group’s vice president, estimated this week that the organization needs to raise $25 million, including $19 million for the center itself and another $6 million to pay the costs of operating it for at least the first two years. The group says it wants to raise the money from private donors, both large and small, and will only ask the town to provide it with the land it needs to build the center.
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has promised his support for the facility, saying he would ask the town board to set aside land at Red Creek Park to give the group the time it needs to launch a capital drive. Southampton Town is a generous community, he said, pointing to the successful efforts to restore the Sag Harbor Cinema as an example of that generosity.
But the supervisor has also made it clear that town taxpayers should not be asked to shoulder the cost of building the center and that any town contribution to its operational costs would only be made in exchange for reduced rates for town residents.
We couldn’t disagree more. Projects, such as public pools, are the kinds of things governments used to provide their citizens. Southampton Town has built up healthy surpluses in recent years and it can certainly afford to help underwrite the construction of this facility, which, as Ms. DeVincenzi says would go a long way toward helping to waterproof our children.