×

Pool can fit with NCCC’s mission

I have read with interest numerous recent letters to the editor opposing the potential closing of the North Country Community College pool, and write to offer both context and to suggest potential opportunities for maintaining this vital community resource.

Given the figures shared by the college, it might be difficult to offer a financial argument for keeping the facility open. But, as with many monetary challenges, a look at other business models might be insightful.

From a strategic point of view, NCCC’s pool might be considered a “loss leader,” in which a company loses money on the product in question but fulfills its mission in other areas made possible by the loss leader. This approach can be seen locally and rather dramatically through the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which, as reported in the Sun Community News, “counted losses on ORDA’s books at over $19 million for each of the past three years (Sun Community News, Jan. 31, 2017).

Given these facts, from one perspective, the simple financial decision would be to shut down ORDA immediately and save taxpayers all that money. But ORDA does not exist to make a profit. Politicians and businesspeople throughout the state understand that if ORDA is disbanded, the economies of the Tri-Lakes would be severely negatively impacted. In fact, according to ORDA’s 2015-16 Annual Report, the agency ensures “in excess of 1,000 jobs to small towns in the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains.”

This analogy can be reasonably applied to the pool when one considers the college’s mission. Indeed, NCCC’s mission statement reads, “North Country Community College provides an exceptional learning and community building experience for all who seek it — challenging and supporting all individuals in their educational and personal growth.” The description continues, “As the only public college located into Adirondack Park, we offer educational, cultural, and recreational programs and experiences to a 3,500-square-mile device area with 90,000 inhabitants.”

This similarity between ORDA’s mission and NCCC’s stated purpose is particularly sound when one considers the evolving health and fitness needs of our communities; we are living longer and are suffering from more diseases associated with longevity, particularly arthritis. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “In the United States, 23% of all adults, 54 million people, have arthritis. By 2040, an estimated 26% of all adults, over 78 million people, will have arthritis.”

Arthritis is a growing public health concern, yet is a manageable disease given the proper exercise. The college desires a lifelong fitness facility, and given the reality that older Americans have fewer alternatives for non-injurious exercise, and that an aquatic environment reduces up to 90 percent of the impact of traditional exercise, NCCC’s goal is already achieved through the pool.

In addition, I believe, because I’ve witnessed them, that great opportunities exist for the pool. As a regular swimmer there for over three decades, I’ve seen peaks and valleys in usage, with the high points including such creative programming as the Lakers Swim Team, the competitive program comprised of middle and high school athletes who competed regionally; the IronKids Swim Team; swim lessons; SCUBA classes; aquatic exercise classes; world-class athletes rehabbing from injury referred by the United States Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid; usage by veterans in treatment at nearby St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers, even the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team practicing sprint starts — but perhaps most telling were the years, particularly during inclement weather, when the pool was so filled with kids and families during recreational times that lap swimming was not possible.

The potential to return to a comprehensive use of the pool (full-use aquatics schedules are available on most YMCA websites) reflects the resource’s true purpose and opportunities, which is not simply to make money but, as with the case of ORDA and as the college’s mission statement reflects, to provide “an exceptional learning and community experience for all who seek it.”

And while it can be temporarily satisfying to express one’s thoughts in a letter, accomplishing goals comes from organizing to affect change. In this regard, I offer my services in forming a committee to explore funding, research programmatic opportunities and preserve this unique community resource. Please feel free to contact me at jimgrant8@gmail.com. And, to sign the Facebook petition to keep the pool open that’s been established by other concerned community members, please send me your email address. (To sign, you must have a Facebook account and use Facebook Messenger.)

Jim Grant lives in Lake Placid.