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Published: Monday, 4/14/2008

Toledo's cost to operate 7 pools is $500,000

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Paula Walker has five daughters living with her in North Toledo and each one of them used to love a cool break from the summer's heat provided at nearby Detwiler Pool.

But that facility - the city's largest and youngest public pool - sat unused last summer behind a rattled and rusty chain-link fence that now guards an unkempt pool of murky water.

"It was bad when they closed that pool because none of the children had a place to go," Ms. Walker said.

Because of budget woes, the city last year opened only five of its 11 pools and the splash pad at Savage Park. In addition, the city began charging a flat $1 admission fee for the pools.

Detwiler, at 3901 290th St., is listed among eight facilities to be opened when the season begins this year.

But the money needed to operate the facility is short by about $16,000 for staffing and the pool needs concrete repair work to its bottom, city leaders said.

"Detwiler is the youngest of Toledo's pools and it is the only 50-meter pool, which is what you need to have swim meets," said Lindsay Webb, chairman of City Council's youth, parks, and recreation committee.

The cost to Toledo taxpayers to operate the seven pools that are scheduled to be opened and the splash pad at Savage Park this year - with some repairs - could total nearly $500,000.

That's a far cry from the $1.2 million city officials estimated it would have cost to operate 11 pools and the splash pad during the 2007 summer.

The city's 2008 general operating fund budget allocates $270,816 for Detwiler, Pickford, Ravine, Savage, and Wilson.

Council voted last week to add $121,467 more from the Toledo City Parks fund for Jamie Farr, Roosevelt, and Willys pools.

There is an additional $100,000 listed for pool improvements in the city's capital improvement plan.

Ms. Webb said spending $100,000 for Detwiler could extend its life an additional 15 years. "It was only closed last year and in 2006 they spent $150,000 on the mechanics of that pool," she said.

District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the ordinance allocating more money to open the additional pools, said public pools fall low on his list of priorities in a tight budget.

Mr. Waniewski - the only district councilman without a city-owned pool in his district - said the city does not have a comprehensive plan for recreation that includes operating pools.

"I have nothing against pools and doing things for kids, but as a businessperson, I want to look at the total picture of recreation," he said. "In terms of what the [city] charter dictates, [pools] are not a necessity, but the quality-of-life argument will always be made."

Mr. Waniewski added that the money could be better spent and other organizations can provide pools services better than the city. He also had concerns over a plan to have the Greater Toledo Aquatic Club operate Detwiler Pool, but is yet to sign an agreement.

Willys Pool, 1375 Hillcrest Ave., which has a diving board, was the most popular city pool last summer.

The pools that will remain closed for a second year are Highland, 1800 South Ave.; Ashley, 141 Knowler St.; and Collins, 624 Reineck Dr.

Kattie Bond, director of Toledo's department of neighborhoods, said the benefit of operating city pools outweighs the cost.

"It is important to provide recreational opportunities for citizens," Ms. Bond said. "We live in a city where we do get hot weather, so it's important we provide a place for kids to at least get wet and cool off."

The city is exploring plans to convert the pool at Jamie Farr into a splash pad.

The job is being rebid since it initially was priced at $227,000, Ms. Bond said. "We felt we could get two splash pads out of that amount, so we are going to rebid it and hopeful get a lower price," she said.

Ms. Bond said opening Detwiler is contingent upon securing a lease with the Greater Toledo Aquatic Club.

She said the club would use the pool for private swim meets and rentals with a number of groups, but would still offer public swim times.

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



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