TAMPA — The Williams Park Pool reopens this morning — not one summer day too soon for East Tampa residents who have waited four years for a $1.3 million repair job.
"I had people in my neighborhood stop me yesterday" to ask about signing up to swim, City Council member Frank Reddick said Monday.
Williams Park was one of three city pools closed in 2009 because they did not meet a federal antidrowning law requiring drain covers, but it needed other work, too.
Since January, Taborelli Construction has repaired the pool shell, replaced the deck, installed new equipment and made safety or operating upgrades to comply with health codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Williams Park Pool will remain open through Sept. 30 — weeks after other summer-season pools close with the start of school — but the economics of operating city pools means officials will take a hard look before adding months of swim time or embarking on future big pool upgrades.
Saying they get questions from constituents about extending the season for some pools, City Council members asked in April for a report on the annual costs of maintaining and providing programs at city pools.
Delivered this month, that report showed that at eight city pools, it costs an average of $875 per day to run the filters, pay the lifeguards, add the chemicals and heat the water, if necessary.
But usage at those pools averaged only 21 visits per day in 2012. Two pools, Loretta Ingraham and Cyrus Greene, averaged fewer than 10 visits per day.
The city is moving ahead with a $2.25 million renovation at the Roy Jenkins Pool on Davis Islands, but Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the smaller Angus Goss Memorial Pool in Central Tampa will remain closed.
And pools that need extensive renovations, such as Cuscaden, which is north of Ybor City across Interstate 4, will receive close scrutiny.
"Pools are very, very expensive to operate and to staff and, based on the number of people who use them, you have to wonder whether it's a good expenditure of money when we have other needs," Buckhorn said.
The report said other factors could influence the cost of extending some pools' seasons:
• Summertime pools rely on lifeguards who often return to school themselves in the fall.
• With shorter days during the school year, some pools would need upgraded lighting.
• As pools need to be heated in cool weather, operating costs rise 25 to 50 percent.
• Tampa's year-round pools have limited hours and primarily cater to high school teams and lap swimmers. Officials say they haven't gotten a large demand for expanded activities.
Reddick said the usage numbers sound low enough that he wants more information about what activities they include. He said he passes by Cyrus Greene every day and is confident it's used by a lot more than one or two people a day.
"I don't know how they're coming up with these numbers," he said.
"I think what we've failed to do in the past is get real numbers," said council member Mike Suarez, who made the original motion for the report. "Let's go ahead and figure out what those numbers really are" so the city can "accommodate as many people as possible with the amount of dollars we have available."