Country Club of Woodbridge Pool Director Anthony Taddei, known as “The Smiling Pool Director,” updated the selectmen at their October meeting on the past pool season, laying out the work that has been accomplished at the pool and clubhouse since the Recreation Department took over running the outdoor pool at the Country Club. “We have a great product,” Taddei said, referring not only to the pool, but the country club in general. “If everything is operating, we have a better chance to make $825,000.” That is the magic revenue number above which golf operator Billy Casper agreed to share revenues with the town.
The pool membership was down this summer by about 25, and the operation did not meet its budgeted targets. However, 80% of that shortfall was spent on the upkeep of the facility and not related to the pool. “We were looking out for this place,” Taddei said.
Mister Taddei, as he is known in town, is the physical education teacher at Beecher Road School. He has been working as pool director at the country club for 17 years. He left for a brief period when the private club went belly up, but returned as soon as the town decided to keep the pool running. Son of a contractor, he is also an experienced carpenter and contractor in his own right, a skill that has benefited the town in many ways. He and his pool crew have cleaned up and painted the stairs to the clubhouse entrance; cleared out and refurbished the snack bar; cleaned and stored away the fully stocked restaurant kitchen equipment, hundreds of wine glasses and gold-rimmed dinner plates; removed decrepit fencing and installed a railing where needed.
He provided a family changing room; he organized and re-keyed 500 lockers; he trimmed bushes around the pool and helped remove a tree stump. He power washed the area. He repaired and cleaned the water heater for $600 instead of the $4,000 it would have required if contracted out. Similarly, painting the stairs cost the town $500 in paint rather than the $5,000 earmarked in a 2010 plan.
He brought in Robert Klinger of The Little Salad Shop to serve food out of the snack bar. They had 12 birthday parties at the pool and 44 outings this season, also parties in the tent, including a Beecher retirement party with 175 people in attendance. They prepared a downstairs kitchen for Klinger to operate out of, and renovated the snack bar.
Pool membership soared from 175 in 2009, the year the town purchased the country club, to 9,402 in 2012, before it dropped off.
Realizing that the tennis courts are an asset for a successful operation, he and his staff have cleaned up the tennis courts, and helped the Recreation Department install a volleyball court in one area.
While the Beecher Road School pool was closed for renovations this summer, people could use the heated outdoor pool instead. In addition, they had two busloads of swim club members train at the pool. Before his day officially started at 9, 300 people had already used the pool, he told the selectmen.
For Taddei, it often meant arriving at the pool at 5 a.m., only to close it at 8 p.m. Sometimes they would stay even after closing, to wash and dry the towels at the end of the day. He also was instrumental in coordinating social events in the tent, which create income for the town.
“I am happy when school starts,” he said with a laugh. It means a more regular schedule for him and his family. However, as long as there are events at the club, he continues to supervise and clean, including the bathrooms.
In recognition of all the extra hours he put in, the selectmen voted unanimously to accord him a one-time $2,600 stipend.
His crew consists of two assistant directors — Brian Hocking and Mike Cebula — who have worked with Taddei for years. In fact, they left together when the club folded and came back together. Their focus is on member satisfaction, he said. The elegant locker rooms, towel service and variety of activities are part of that effort. In spring, they hire 17 life guards, who round out the team.
When the pool had an open house and all the town’s sandwich boards were taken, the team built its own sandwich boards to set up around town, to have and to hold. He also landscaped the area around the sign at the intersection with Ansonia Road. “Presentation starts at the road,” he said.
Taddei hopes that the town leaders will see a value in what the pool offers to the community. The $100,000 plugged into the five-year capital plan for upkeep of the pool seem to be unreasonably high, he feels. He did agree that the pool will need to be re-plastered in the next few years at an expense of about $60,000. But much of the maintenance work can be done — and has been done — in-house.
Asked why the pool membership has seen a drop of about 24 members this season, Taddei said about a third joined the Woodbridge Club for its tennis program; another third stayed away because they felt there should be a special rate for Woodbridge residents; and for others there are miscellaneous reasons, such as those who built their own pool; others who moved away; some were too busy to enjoy the summer by the pool. “We are at the fork in the road,” Taddei told the selectmen. “The lack of decision [whether to gut or to continue] is causing a drop in the pool membership.”
Meanwhile the joint boards of Finance and Selectmen went on a walk-through of the clubhouse to get a first-hand impression of its condition. The main floor with its loose ceiling tiles in some rooms is closed to the public, as per the fire marshal. A leaky roof has left water stains. They saw rotting window frames and cracks in the dry-wall. Even so, the soaring ceilings, plush carpets, club chairs and oversized fireplace still exude the elegance of a bygone era, when a crew of full-time caretakers looked after the place.
Pictured: The joint boards of Selectmen and Finance took tours of the old clubhouse recently.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent