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Rally aims to open city pools

Residents gather in attempt to force hand of mayor

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Day'Shawn Jones, 17, speaks during a rally organized by One Village Council in front of Wilson Pool to demand that Toledo city council open both Wilson and Jamie Farr pools this year.

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More than 50 people Monday refused to give up on forcing the city to open a North Toledo Pool this summer, even though Mayor D. Michael Collins and a number of Toledo councilmen oppose a plan to use capital improvements money.

Beth Lewandowski, vice president of One Village Council in North Toledo, led a rally Monday in front of Wilson Park pool, adjacent to Woodward High School.

PHOTO GALLERY: City pools rally

Ms. Lewandowski and others called on Mayor Collins and council to find the money to open the same six pools that were open last year.

“Our parks, our pools, and our schools are all very important to us,” she said. “Right now, none of the pools in the north end will be open.”

The city’s already-approved general fund provides $266,199 to operate Navarre, Pickford, Roosevelt, and Willys pools and the splash pad at Savage Park from July 1 through mid to late August.

Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson, who was present for the rally but did not participate, submitted a proposal to divert money from street repairs or other capital projects to add to the number of city pools open this summer. She wants to reassign $261,000 for repairs to and reopening of Wilson and Jamie Farr pools, which were not included in the previously approved general-fund budget for recreation. But opposition was clear during council’s agenda-review meeting last week.

Ms. Hicks-Hudson said she is working with building trades unions to donate time needed to repair broken machinery and concrete at the pools. She is also seeking donated supplies.

Day'Shawn Jones, 17, a Woodward student, said young people in North Toledo need the pool to stay out of trouble.

“If the pools aren't open, there is going to be a real increase in gangs and violence,” he said. “They look forward to waking up everyday and coming to this pool.”

Wanda Butts — founder of the Josh Project, which teaches children water safety and how to swim — joined the chorus of pool advocates.

“When pools close, children drown,” Ms. Butts said.

Mayor Collins said he would cede to council’s wishes if it approved moving money to open more than the four pools, but asked council to identify what streets slated to be repaired would not be fixed.

Ms. Hicks-Hudson stressed that other capital improvements money could be used, not only money earmarked for streets.

A March 19 city report compared the 2013 costs for the pools versus attendance and found the average taxpayer cost per visit was $8 for the splash pad; $11 for Pickford; $21 for Willys; $33 for Roosevelt; $41 for Navarre, $47 for Jamie Farr, and $87 for Wilson.

The mayor originally released a 2014 budget with no money for pools. He offered later to slash the police department salary and benefits funding by $266,199 to fund opening four pools and the splash pad at Savage Park. Those savings come from the loss of seven police cadets who did not graduate.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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