Petersburg pool has been closed since mid-October after a fire destroyed an electrical panel to the pool’s boiler. (Photo/KFSK)

The Petersburg pool, which closed down after a fire, could reopen with some temporary fixes. At least there is hope that could be the case. That was the latest update shared at the last borough assembly meeting. KFSK’s Angela Denning has more.

The year 2020 has been hard on Petersburg’s swimming pool. There have been a series of closures starting with a cold-weather breakdown in the spring, then a COVID shutdown in the summer, and then an electrical fire in the fall. But all appears not to be lost.

“We’re getting much closer to potentially having the pool reopen,” said Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht. “Everything temporary has been fixed. That includes heat of the water as well as in the building. We’ve gone through all of the electrical systems. We’ve moved our network back to where it belongs and I think it is up and running.”

Giesbrecht says there is now electricity running to the Aquatic Center and the pool’s temperatures are warming up to meet what’s needed for swimming. The pool had been without electricity for about a month. Getting the lights and heat back means there is less of a chance for any freezing problems this winter.

“The facility, like I said, is warm, no condensation,” Giesbrecht said. “We think we’ve got it protected pretty well right now.”

After initial fire damage assessments were done, the borough had reported a permanent fix for the pool could be 9 months away. Although that’s likely still the case, temporary solutions could get the doors opened much sooner. The borough had mechanical and electrical contractors visit the site as well as an electrical engineer. Giesbrecht says there’s still a problem with the H Vac units and the ambient temperature in the Aquatic Center.  There is also a problem with the fire system in that part of the building and the borough has ordered a replacement.

“So if we do reopen the facility, we do it without a fire system and we really have to understand the rules behind that,” said Giesbrecht.

Giesbrecht says there would have to be an evacuation plan and more staff training if the pool were to run without a fire system in place, even temporarily. He’s asked the Borough’s Fire Marshall Ryan Welde to talk with the State’s Fire Marshall about those details.

The borough continues to work with the insurance company, Liberty Mutual, which is covering most of the costs.

Despite the uncertain timeline, Petersburg School District plans to restart swim classes once the pool does reopen.

School Board President, Sarah Holmgrain, says the closure hasn’t been easy.

“It’s hard because it’s an outlet for both kids and adults even during the pandemic,” Holmgrain said. “So, we’re just like the rest of the community, very disappointed but we’ll be hopefully optimistic.”

The school district partners with the Petersburg Borough on the Aquatic Center. The school district pays for the electricity while the borough oversees management and maintenance of the facility. The school district includes swimming as part of its curriculum at the elementary and middle schools.

The district’s recent swim instructor, Dan Van Swearingen, moved out of town last spring and the district planned on replacing him until the pandemic made that difficult. Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter says they created a temporary swim program with another instructor that was about ready to start up when the fire hit. She says they’ll still plan on starting swim classes again as soon as the pool reopens.

“We will be moving forward with instruction in there as soon as we possibly can in whatever form that might take,” said Kludt-Painter. “We’re definitely very committed to doing that.”

Kludt-Painter says while other activities were shut down because of the pandemic, they were able to keep the pool open. The district worked with the Petersburg Medical Center to get guidance on how to hold swim classes with appropriate protocols in place.

“It really has been a successful activity once the pool was back up and running, lots of kids in there for swim club, and of course, our high school swimmers that was a great successful activity where a lot of other activities are on hold,” said Kludt-Painter.

She says they’re keeping their fingers crossed that the pieces will come together quickly during repair work and that the kids can get back in the water before too long.