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The Town of Cheshire's insurance policy could cover a full replacement of the Cheshire Community Pool bubble, but it's still too early to tell how much the insurance company will actually pay.
A status update was given earlier this week at the Town Council meeting Tuesday night, but not many specifics were included. According to Town Manager Michael Milone, the insurance carrier, Great American, has submitted an initial offer to the Town, but those terms were not disclosed. The Council discussed the offer Feb. 8 during executive session, as they feel it's a negotiation and did not want to jeopardize the Town's claim. Milone also explained that the state of Connecticut could be deemed a disaster area based on the Jan. 12 storm that precipitated the collapse of the bubble. As such, Milone said he applied for a $650,000 claim, but it's unlikely the Town would see that sort of reimbursement for the pool.
Mary Ann Rosa, an insurance claims specialist working with Town officials, explained that the "coverage is very good" for the Town. There is a $10,000 deductible the Town will have to pay for any claim, but Rosa said full replacement costs were included in the policy. While not getting into specifics, Rosa stated that the Town has three options: replace, repair, or take cash value for the bubble. The Town cannot choose to replace the bubble if it is determined it can be repaired.
The pool bubble was damaged during the January storm despite the best efforts of Town staff. According to Parks and Recreation Director Bob Ceccolini, a parks employee was at the pool each night making sure snow was melting off the bubble. During snow storms, the pressure and heat is turned up inside the facility so when the snow accumulates on the bubble, it melts and slides off. However, during this storm, the snow fell so fast it didn't melt. Then “seemingly all at once,” a large mass of snow slid down the side of the bubble and the weight pushed the fabric down into diving poles used by the swim teams. The poles punctured holes in the bubble and, after the snow fell away, it began to re-inflate, causing a large rip. The decision was then made to deflate the bubble before the 40-foot rip got any worse, Ceccolini explained.
"It is to be determined if the bubble is saveable or not," Ceccolini said. "Right now, the bubble is acting like a blanket."
The bubble is laying over the water and protecting it from the elements. Currently, the water temperature has been lowered to about 50 degrees in an effort to keep the pipes from freezing. While the fabric bubble is a major concern, the support structure that secures the bubble was also severely damaged last month.
Pool Director Sheila Adams, who was inside the bubble when it began to collapse, said that there has already been a loss of nearly $40,000 from program cancellations and membership refunds. She expected by the time the pool re-opens in May, the Town could see a loss of about $100,000.
Not everyone is canceling their memberships, however. Adams said she sent out over 500 letters to pool passholders and gave them two options: accept a pro-rated refund or extend their membership when the pool reopens. According to Adams, "the majority" wanted to extend their membership.
"They hope we'll be the same facility," she said.
Town Council Chairman Tim Slocum asked the public to be patient as local officials continue to work towards a resolution.
"I think it will take us a period of time to resolve this," he said. "It's going to take work on everyone's part to get this right."