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Future of Galesburg's Hawthorne Pool remains uncertain

Galesburg City Council is deciding whether to close the 80-year-old public pool or find the money to complete necessary repairs.

GALESBURG, Ill. — The fate of an 80-year-old public pool in Galesburg is still up in the air.

City officials previously found that Hawthorne Pool is in dire need of repair and could pose safety problems. The city council must decide now whether it will close the pool permanently in May, or whether it will be a temporary closure for repairs. 

The pool, built in 1941, is not up to current code for electrical, plumbing, ventilation and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

For months, a group of avid Hawthorne Pool users have been fighting to save it. In February, the group previously presented a petition with over 1,200 signatures in support of saving it to the city council.

"Our youth and adults have little to do in Galesburg," the group's organizer, Linda Miller, told City Council Monday night. "The bowling alley's gone, the skating rink is gone, life guarded swimming and waterslide at Lake Storey no longer is available. The pool provides entertainment and exercise for all ages, but often is the only exercise option for seniors."

RELATED: Galesburg community fights to save 80-year-old pool

On Monday, council members held a work session to discuss the pool and what the repair options look like.

Outgoing city manager, Todd Thompson, presented council members with a five-year repair plan that would cost $3.1 million. Repairing the indoor pool and its building in stages had not previously been discussed.

In the first year, Hawthorne's roof would be replaced along with indoor columns.

Thompson outlined using ARPA funds, bonds and utility tax to finance the project. Several council members asked if grant money was a possibility as well.

"I think using the ARPA funds is the best way to go and also with any grants that we can get," said 7th Ward Councilman Larry Cox.

He added that some of the other items on the list, such as zero-depth entry, a spongier pool-floor for exercise and an altered diving board might not be necessary. While 5th Ward Councilwoman Jaclyn Smith-Esters pointed out that those changes could be financed through fundraisers by the community and the "Save Hawthorne Pool" group.

Many council members were in agreement that there needs to be more programming added at the pool, but Smith-Esters thinks keeping it is a good opportunity to do more with the Galesburg community.

"I think it would be really cool for Galesburg to be on the map for everybody that's under the age of 12 knows how to swim," she said. "We make sure that happens."

She also recommended researching grants available with USA Swimming.

However, it's not just the repair cost that the council needs to think about. Mayor Peter Schwartzman said that adding more programming would mean that the city would also be increasing its annual expenditures on the pool. 

"We need to also find source of funds for that increase cost," Schwartzman said. "I'm just trying to let the council chew on that for a bit and where that might come from."

The council did not vote on its plans for the pool Monday night, but Schwartzman did ask each council member to indicate where they stood on the two proposals. A majority said they would be in favor of repairing Hawthorne.

"I'd love to see us develop and pursue a plan for reinvigorating this space and drawing more people to use it and appreciate it," said 6th Ward Councilwoman Sarah Davis.

No matter the council's decision, Hawthorne Pool will close in May. If it does decide to repair it, and engineering plans are ready to go in May, Thompson said it could reopen in November after the new roof and columns are installed. All other repairs could happen while the pool is open at a later date. 

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