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City says demolition of 44-year-old swimming pool in East Toledo should not be a surprise

With jackhammers kicking up dust behind him, Democratic mayoral candidate Joe McNamara blasted incumbent Mayor Mike Bell for the city's surprise demolition of a 44-year-old East Toledo swimming pool today.

"Mayor Bell should be fighting for community anchors in East Toledo, not tearing them down," Mr. McNamara said at Ravine Park at Dearborn Avenue and Colorado Street. "I think Mayor Bell is out of touch with what people want in neighborhoods."

Heavy machines were busy pushing down the concrete walls of the Ravine Park pool - about the same time in previous years that city crews would have been busy getting it ready for another influx of children.

Mayoral spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said the city's intent to demolish the pool has been known since June, 2012. She said unused pools are dangerous and a nuisance and attract vandals and graffiti.

"We do care about neighborhoods. We're abating nuisances in neighborhoods because these are not going to be usable assets," Ms. Sorgenfrei said. She said the pool closed in 2007.

Mr. Bell, a political independent, is seeking a second four-year term. He, Mr. McNamara, and five other people are competing in a primary election Sept. 10. The top two vote-getters will face off in the November election.

Representatives of three neighborhood groups fumed that they were not warned about the demolition or given a chance to save the pool. They organized today's news conference along with Mr. McNamara and District 3 Councilman Mike Craig.

Mr. Craig said he received no notice, and learned of the demolition Tuesday night on social media.

"There should have been a community meeting. You can't run a city by not communicating with the citizens, the people who own this pool," Mr. Craig said.

Mr. McNamara said if the $5 million surplus just announced by the mayor is for real, council should consider using the money for the city's capital improvements priorities.

"If there's money to give raises to political insiders, there's money to fix pools. If there's money to buy luxury SUV's, there's money to buy pools. If there's a $5 million surplus, there's money to fix pools," Mr. McNamara said.

However, he did not commit to using the $5 million to replace the pool, but said it should be discussed by council.

Despite the surprise about this week's demolition, it's been talked about a long time. Ms. Sorgenfrei cited a discussion on council in June, 2012, and residents held a demonstration at Ravine Park in July, 2012, urging the Bell administration to halt plans to remove the old pool.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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