LEBANON, Pa. - As City Council approved its budget with no new tax increases Thursday, the future of Lauther Pool remains uncertain.
As things stand, council members approved $300,000 in repairs to install a new pool liner and deck liner, and the pool would be closed for the 2018 season while the repairs are completed. But the city wants to gather public feedback about what to do with the pool long-term, including whether the city should keep it open.
Built in 1941, it is one of the only above-ground public pools that remains open in the country. (REPORTER'S NOTE: While city officials claimed it was either the only one or one of two in the country, our followers on Facebook alerted us to others designed by Wesley Bintz in the early to mid-20th century that remain open and are above ground. A list and photos can be found here.)
Lauther Water Complex was renovated in the mid-2000s to add a water slide and spray area.
Lebanon's mayor Sherry Capello cited lower attendance in questioning whether the pool should remain open long-term.
"Is this something that the residents and the taxpayers want us to continue to try and operate at a deficit," Capello said. "I just thought it's time to have this discussion before we make a significant investment in the pool, and let's hear from the people, because it's their money that we're spending on the pool."
Community members have provided limited public input so far, but those asked Thursday said they wanted to see lower fees for attendance and want to preserve the pool.
"Growing up here in Lebanon, I actually swam at the pool a couple times with family, and seeing the changes and improvements to it, I'd be really upset if the pool closed down permanently," said resident Robert Cruz.
Other city leaders hope the pool will be back better than ever in 2019, rather than see it close.
"Anything's possible, but I don't think either the administration or council really would like to see that at this point," said City Council chairman Wiley Parker.
A public meeting is scheduled for January 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Salvation Army in Lebanon. Another meeting will be held in February before council renders a final decision in March, Parker said.