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As a former competitive swimmer from a young age through high school, I have vivid memories of traveling to early morning and late night practices and meets. Like many of my peers growing up in Camden County, I did not have the luxury of utilizing a pool in my own community and was forced to use a facility far from home.
The pool at the former Burlington Community College campus in Pemberton is a resource that many of our high schools, swim clubs, and community organizations have come to rely on; it may have even helped set an Olympic swimmer on her course to success.
I will not allow this resource to disappear. Let me be even clearer: the Pemberton campus pool will remain open, or we will build a new one during my next term at a convenient location in Burlington County.
The reality, however, is that constructing and maintaining a pool that we can be proud of is a very expensive endeavor. The Freeholder Board has a tradition of fiscal responsibility, and the college’s core mission is to provide accessible and affordable pathways to higher education; neither of which will be cast aside. We will need financial partners to ensure the Pemberton campus pool or our new one will be self-sustaining.
There’s a reason why our Freeholder Board has been able to reduce the county tax levy by $10 million since 2008, and have the lowest annual cost per resident in the state. It’s because we invest in what matters most and do not offer active recreational opportunities, such as golf courses, like some of the bloated county governments north of us.
However, a pool that’s operated primarily for our athletic teams can go a long way in enhancing the student-athlete experience.
Let me outline the mechanics of how this will work going forward.
Rowan College at Burlington County is currently seeking proposals from the private sector to redevelop its former Pemberton campus. If the campus, excluding the pool, is sold, the county will assume ownership of the pool and invest in needed repairs. If the campus in its entirety is sold, we will work to keep the pool open while we construct a new one so there is no interruption.
As we progress, I will be looking to partner with you and others to fundraise in order to make either scenario a reality.
Lastly, before I finish, I would like to add that the existing boat launch on the Pemberton campus will be preserved no matter what happens with its sale.
Thank you all for being here and taking part in this process. I am pleased to deliver a win for our athletes, parents, coaches, and residents.