PBES pool threatened – again!

BY BILL BROWN

The Piney Branch Elementary School indoor pool is once again on the county budget chopping block. Protesting the proposed funding cut, about twenty pool supporters raised a banner at the pool Thurdsay evening, july 16. The pool is located on Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, MD., next door to the city municipal building and community center.

Local residents and politicians thought they’d rescued the PBES pool from fatal revenue cuts last October.  Then, they successfully pressured the Montgomery County Council to restore $145,000 of operating funds after county executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett sliced them from the county budget.

The county budget sessions are over. Budget changes at this point are unusual.

The reason appears to be two big losses to the county’s revenue. First the US Supreme Court ruled that Maryland has been illegally double-taxing individuals and businesses.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Maryland estimated its tax income would reduce by $42 million annually. Refunds for past double-taxation could cost $200 million.

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Takoma Park city councilmember Terry Seamens talks to a swimmer at the Piney Branch Elementary School pool. Photo by Bill Brown.

Then, Maryland governor Larry Hogan said that Montgomery Prince Georges Counties had to take on more of the Purple Line light rail line construction cost.

So, county executive Leggett revisited his budget, cutting, among other programs, the PBES pool.

The final decision will be made at a July 28 county council meeting, according to Takoma Park councilmembers Kate Stewart and Terry Seamens. They said the “budget reconciliation” meeting will vote on all the proposed cuts.

The Takoma Park city council passed a resolution Monday, July 16, in favor of keeping pool funding. City representatives are also lobbying county councilmembers.

The pool demonstrators calculated that only five votes are needed to overturn the cut. Tallying the county council members who they believe support them, they think the cuts will not go through.

The pool gets a lot of use, according to the group.

Joyce Seamens, Director of Pool Operations and wife of city councilmember Terry Seamens, said the summer Lunch and Learn program for children, many of them from financially disadvantaged homes, has 98 children aged 6 – 15 learning to swim. Many of them began as non-swimmers, she said. The program is run by the Adventist Community Service in partnership with the city of Takoma Park and Montgomery County.

Seamens, who manages the pool, said normally the pool is rented by summer camps, but this year, due to the original budget cut proposal, they lost 4 camps.

If the pool closes, her funding will end September 31, said Seamens,

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Joyce Seamens, Director of Pool Operations, stands in doorway behind the banner-bearers. Photo by Bill Brown.

In addition the pool offers lessons, open swimming sessions, master-class sessions and scuba and kayak lessons. The Montgomery Blair High School swim team practices there. Aquatic Stars holds lessons there. Piney Branch Elementary School uses the pool as part of its physical education program.

Katya Partan, who lives in the community and turned out to show support, said her three children learned to swim there in their PE classes.

Another parent, Sigfried Gold, said his family all use the pool. His two young children take swim lessons there.

Jeff Hopkins, who helped organize the demonstration, is with the Master Swim program.

The PBES pool rally was pulled together in a few days by resident Dawn Reeves, who invited Channel 21, Montgomery County’s cable access television station to video the event.

Supporters have a petition on Change.org. It was started by local resident and parent Laura Barclay.