TAMPA — As city staff reported that money to fix the historic Cuscaden Park pool won't be available until at least the 2015 budget year, the pool's leading advocate on the Tampa City Council said its worsening condition may require a complete reconstruction.
"You've got one of two choices," council member Frank Reddick told colleagues Thursday. "You're either going to repair the thing or tear the damn thing down. … Tear it down and start over."
After looking at the pool — closed more than four years ago — with swimming pool engineers and contractors, Reddick returned with photos showing cracks, stains and weathered concrete at the empty pool.
"Each year we prolong this, the conditions at that facility get worse," he said.
In response, council members voted to ask for a report on Jan. 23 about the feasibility of building a new, in-ground pool inside the historic walls that now house the above-ground Cuscaden pool on N 15th Street in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn's administration estimates that construction to reopen the pool would cost $1.5 million. Last month, council members asked city chief of staff Dennis Rogero to identify Community Investment Tax funds in this year's budget to do the work.
On Thursday, Rogero said there isn't any revenue from the tax left to do that this year. The city's 2013-14 budget includes nearly $17 million in spending from the tax, a half-cent sales tax that Hillsborough County voters approved in 1996 to pay for roads, schools, public safety and what became Raymond James Stadium.
Half that $17 million is going to pay debt service and for public safety, Rogero said. Most of the rest is earmarked for other parks and recreation projects, including Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and Perry Harvey Sr. Park.
Rogero suggested that the city review whether to spend more money on the Cuscaden pool during the process to create the 2014-15 budget. That is scheduled to start in about a month.
Stephen Michelini, a land-use consultant who toured the pool with contractors, said they concluded that it might be fixed for $1.5 million, but the city would probably have to budget another $300,000 a year because the cracks would return.
"Quite honestly, I was shocked," Michelini said. "It's in sad condition."
The oval-shaped pool was built in 1937 through the Works Progress Administration. Leaks closed it 1997. The city did $2.5 million in repairs in 2005 but officials closed the pool again in 2009 when cracks, leaks and a faulty filtration system made it too costly to keep open as City Hall cut expenses across the board.
Before Rogero's presentation, V.M. Ybor neighborhood leader Kim Headland urged the council to keep pressing for money and a plan to reopen the pool soon.
"Our community and more importantly our city deserves to have this jewel returned to public use," she said.