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Middlebury goes solar to heat municipal pool

MIDDLEBURY — Users of the Middlebury municipal swimming pool this summer will be able to take a dip without fear of their teeth chattering uncontrollably, or having the urge to jump into a hot tub the second they emerge from the facility’s notoriously icy waters.
The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday, May 13, unanimously agreed to endorse a solar heating system for the pool, which has been undergoing repairs for some longstanding, major leaks. Those leaks have forced the Middlebury Parks & Recreation Department to constantly replenish the pool with new water that doesn’t have a chance to warm under the sun’s rays before its makes its way out of the pool.
This has made for less-than-ideal swimming conditions for the pool’s many casual users, as well as for local youth clubs that use the facility for competition. Representatives of the Middlebury Aquatic Club and Middlebury Swim Team were present on Tuesday to advocate for a warming solution for the pool water.
Terri Arnold, director of Middlebury Parks & Recreation, explained she had worked with Bristol Electronics on a proposal to equip the pool with a solar heating system. The system will consist of thirteen 4-foot-by-12-foot solar panels and associated fittings that will be installed on the roof of the pool building. The panels will pre-heat the water before it makes its way into the swimming pool.
Cost of the system: $7,544. But Arnold said it’s likely the town will be on the hook for only around $3,250 of the total cost because of grant funding available through the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund. The local swim teams have pledged to reimburse the town for its outlay for the project. Arnold is also soliciting contributions from the general public, asking folks to send a check to the town office for the “Middlebury Solar Pool Project.”
In the meantime, repairs continue on the pool to make sure that the newly heated water doesn’t simply leak out. Arnold is optimistic that recent work to seal the seam between the stainless steel gutters and the concrete pool ledge has done the trick.
Officials hope to have the new solar heating system installed at the pool in the recreation park by next month. Opening day for the pool is scheduled for June 14.
“In July, the Middlebury Swim Team is hosting the Regional League Competitions and it is my hope that the town of Middlebury will show its pride by providing a warm, safe and inviting pool atmosphere for all participants,” Arnold said.
Selectboard members were pleased to support the project and recognized the cold pool temperatures. Selectman Nick Artim recalled his thoughts during a recent walk by the pool.
“My first reaction was ‘How dedicated those kids are,’ and my second reaction was, ‘I’m glad it’s not me.’”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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