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Galesburg group wins battle to keep municipal pool open—for now

Save Hawthorne Pool
courtesy photo

For months, a group of Galesburg residents has been fighting to stop the city from closing Hawthorne Pool permanently. The city planned to shut down the 80-year-old facility next month due to safety concerns.

Parks and Recreation Director Tony Oligney-Estill estimated the cost of visual repairs alone at $2.3 million. That included dealing with rusted rafters and other essential safety concerns at the indoor facility.

Without the Hawthorne pool, Galesburg would be left with just one municipal swimming pool, which is open in the summer months only.

Galesburg resident Linda Miller took a leadership position with the local volunteer group Save Hawthorne Pool. She said Galesburg needs an indoor pool. Miller said Hawthorne is used by people of all ages for myriad purposes including lane swimming, water aerobics classes, children’s swim lessons, and parties.

Group members have also said the facility serves people who seek to maintain good health, rehabilitate from injuries, and recover from surgeries. They said they’ve developed a strong community of friendship and support over time.

They also said Hawthorne offers an inexpensive option for residents who cannot join the YMCA, which requires a membership. Though Miller acknowledged that the Y offers scholarships for those who qualify, she said the cost is still prohibitive for some families.

For months, members of the Save Hawthorne Pool group spoke at almost every city council meeting in favor of keeping the pool open, and in February, they submitted a petition to the city council with more than 1,200 signatures.

Now their efforts appear to be paying off. During a recent city council work session, city officials presented a new budget proposal and, in a straw poll, the council voted 5 – 1 to move forward with the necessary repairs.

When asked what changed the situation, City Manager Todd Thompson said his office broke the costs down into a phased plan that estimates repair costs at $3.1 million. The money will come from a combination of funds from the America Rescue Plan Act, bonds, and utility taxes.

As of now, the Hawthorne Pool will close in May, but not permanently. Engineering and construction bids will be brought to the council for votes in a piecemeal fashion with officials looking to re-open the pool in October or November of this year.

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