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Nome swimmers left high and dry amidst pool renovation delays

The Nome Northstar Swim Team made waves at regional meets last year. But this year those swimmers have been left out to dry because the pool has been closed since June.

Nome’s only swimming pool was closed to switch from a saltwater system to chlorine. It was supposed to reopen in September, but manufacturing delays and supply chain challenges have repeatedly delayed the reopening, which is now set for mid-February.

In a common council meeting on Monday, City Manager Glenn Steckman said the old pool equipment was being “eaten alive” by corrosive materials, prompting the closure.

The pool is on the high school campus, which is also in the process of replacing the heating and ventilation system.

Chip Leeper, the Nome parks and recreation director, said Polar Pools is the sole contractor for the project. Leeper said the delay is also partly due to the company’s other projects taking place.

“He books out our time, based on what he has in the component. And if he has any problems at all, you know, he doesn’t come back next week. He’s got to come back when he’s got time.”

Custom fittings for the pool were severed in transport, according to a recent announcement. Leeper said the fittings are specialized and it’s not as simple as ordering locally. 

“If we want their warranty, they make all their parts,” he said. We did talk with a gentleman today from Polar Pools and he has two of the fittings that he needs to have, the other two are in transit from the factory in Texas.”

It’s left the community’s swimmers in a tough situation. The North Stars swim team would have competed in several meets by now if it weren’t for the closure. But now, it’s more than halfway through the season. 

One parent, Jesse Blandford, had three kids on the swim team last year, with a fourth that hoped to join this year. He said the closure impacts families with small children because there’s few activity programs for kids 5th grade and below. 

Longtime resident Chelsea Hubert agreed, saying it’s been a challenge to find activities for her two kids as well. She said the team as a whole will likely be behind in future competitions because they’ve missed out on practices. 

Hubert said the pool being closed also prevents people from learning about water safety and how to swim. In an area surrounded by oceans and rivers, learning about water safety could mean life or death.

Officials admit their remodel has gone on significantly longer than what he had originally hoped.

“The pool not being open isn’t making my life easier,” said Leeper.

Leeper said he expects most of the lifeguards will need to be recertified before reopening. If all goes to plan, he said the pool could reopen as soon as mid February.

Photo at top: ‘No Parking’ sign in front of Nome Swimming Pool entrance. This door leads to the tunnel that connects to Nome-Beltz High School. (Photo from Joe Coleman, KNOM April, 2020.)

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