Council discusses future of city’s swimming pools

The high cost of keeping the one remaining city-operated pool open became the subject of discussion by the city finance committee Monday.

“Should the city be in the aquatics business or not?” asked Councilman Randall J. Allison, as he and others on the committee reviewed the feasibility of investing in the East End or Memorial pools and what it would mean if the city doesn’t have a swimming pool.

Memorial Pool closed two years ago after it was found to have had leaked thousands of gallons of water in recent years, and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said keeping the pool open would require $1 million or more.

Monday, the committee voted 2 to 1 to give a negative recommendation to amend a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant application of $250,000 for Memorial Pool. Council members Jonathan Williamson and Liz Miele voted against recommendation, and Allison voted for no recommendation.

The administration wants to amend the application so it can spend the $250,000 for repair and maintenance of East End Pool.

Campana said he believes the city can find $750,000 to invest in the pool in Shaw Place Park.

He said the city can use the $250,000 grant, $250,000 in community development block grant money, and $250,000 through a proposed refinancing of a $20 million bond to keep the pool operational.

Campana said the money would be used to have the pool replastered, install new gutters, create a zero-depth entry for handicapped accessibility, and other necessary maintenance so the pool can last another 20 to 30 years.

“If you went with Memorial Pool and want it to be on the same footing as East End you are looking at another $250,000,” Campana said.

William C. Wright, general manager of the city Department of Streets and Parks, said there may be more structural deficiencies beneath Memorial Pool, which is built on porous rock and sand.

Howeve, Miele said feedback she’s had from city residents indicated a desire to reopen Memorial Pool.

Williamson offered no opinion but drew a comparison with the decision made by Susquehanna Health officials to expand the Williamsport Regional Medical Center in the city and not move it elsewhere.

“Let’s let what’s good for the community drive our decision,” Williamson said.

The city is going to need to provide amenities for new residents living near Memorial Park.

Memorial Homes, a 40-unit apartment complex and 32 townhouses, are to be built at the site of the former Brodart warehouse, according to Miele.

It’s within sight of the park and pool.

In other business, the committee voted 3-0 in favor of a positive recommendation for awarding the street reconstruction project to HRI Inc., 3576 W. Fourth St., in the amount of $1.2 million.

The project is funded with community development block grant funds, liquid fuels funds and Marcellus Shale impact fees. It came in under the estimated and budgeted amount of $1.3 million.

“We will come back to the city council with a recommendation for the use of the remaining funds for street-related infrastructure improvements,” said John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development.

Council is expected to take action on the issue Thursday.

During the meeting Wright also said his staff is spending more time mowing the Memorial Park because of trash thrown on the ground instead of in trash barrels.

The trash problem continues despite Campana ordering the basketball rims in the park temporarily taken down earlier this summer.