Closed since July, Trumbull considers fate of Hillcrest pool

The Trumbull Aquatics Facilities Committee is looking into the feasibility of constructing a new pool that would be nearly twice the size of the pool at Hillcrest Middle School.
The Trumbull Aquatics Facilities Committee is looking into the feasibility of constructing a new pool that would be nearly twice the size of the pool at Hillcrest Middle School.Donald Eng /

TRUMBULL — Dmitri Paris long knew that there were problems with the Hillcrest Middle School pool. But for a while, the Trumbull superintendent of parks and recreation found a way to keep the pool running while seeking a permanent fix.

Then, over the summer, water started coming out of the walls in a mechanical room underneath the pool’s deep end.

“That definitely got my attention,” Paris said.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Trumbull Aquatics Facilities Committee, Paris and public works director George Estrada spoke about the pool, which has been closed since July for repairs. The pool’s closure has forced members of local swim teams to travel out of town for practices and competitions.

“We are very mindful of the inconvenience, especially for the younger athletes that are out late at night for practices and competition,” Estrada said. “We recognize what a difficult time and a hardship it is for parents to manage that.”

Still, he and Paris said fixing the pool — which is more than 50 years old — is easier said than done.

“The notion that we can quickly recover from what we have to do (with) this pool is virtually impossible,” Estrada said. “It will take some considerable capital investment and time.”

Paris said the issue began a few years ago when “the pool really started to go into a more notable state of decline where (the water) wasn’t able be balanced to a safe level regularly anymore.”

He said he was able to keep the pool running as he and other officials tried to figure out a more permanent fix. Then he got the call about the water in the mechanical room.

“A number of fissures developed in the upper corner of the mechanical room directly adjacent to the deep end,” Paris said. “It has worked its way around one corner of the mechanical room and it was now starting to work its way toward a third wall, where water was literally waterfalling through the walls of the mechanical room. We obviously had a significant mechanical failure.”

The pool was deemed unsafe and it was shut down.

He said he, Estrada and a representative of an architectural firm hired on the project will give a full report Jan. 20 to town staff and stakeholders, including parents of those on Trumbull swim and dive teams. Paris said the hope is to figure out a cost for addressing the pool’s issues that the town can work with.

“There is a number out there that’s too much and there’s a number out there that’s going to make it work,” Paris said. “Let’s see what we have. Let’s put together real data and see where we are and move forward.”

Aquatics Facilities Committee chair Jason Marsh thanked Paris and Estrada for their presentation, but he was quick to point out that the pool hasn’t exactly been neglected.

“Every year we put money toward it,” he said. “It’s just now getting to a critical failure on a number of components, correct?”

Paris confirmed that the was the case.

Wednesday’s meeting, which was virtual, was the first meeting of the Aquatics Facilities Committee in more than a year. The group stopped meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About half of the meeting was to discuss the Hillcrest pool. The other half was to discuss the possibility of building a combination senior center, recreation department and aquatics center.

Before the committee went on hiatus, members were discussing the possibility of an aquatics center at Tashua Knolls. But, since then, the town authorized the purchase of about 25 acres of land on Hardy Lane. The land sits roughly between Church Hill Road and the Pequonnock River.

Marsh said the committee is now considering whether Hardy Lane is a good spot for a new facility. Estrada and Paris said they had been looking into it too.

“We see an incredible opportunity to bring together a recreation department, a senior center and aquatics facility all in one,” Estrada said.

Some members of the public said, though they like the idea of an aquatics center, they want something to be done with Hillcrest pool in the short term.

Catherine Kosak is president of the Trumbull High School Swim and Dive Splash Club. She spoke in the public comment of Wednesday’s meeting, and pointed out that it would be a while before the aquatics center is complete.

“It doesn’t really help the current burden of our high school swimmers and their families,” she said. “We feel the repair of the Hillcrest pool is essential until a new pool can be built.”