Friday, February 23, 2018
Politics

Another Tampa city pool to get renovated

TAMPA — It was sink or swim for the fate of another of the city's hotly debated municipal pools — and neighbors decided Thursday night to swim.

The vote among Davis Islands residents to kick in the community's money toward renovations of the Roy Jenkins Pool means work to reopen two closed city pools now will go forward.

But not without gripes.

Last year, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn had approved an estimated $1.2 million for renovations at the Williams Park Pool in East Tampa.

And yet the mayor issued an ultimatum to Davis Islands residents for their neighborhood pool: Use some of your money or lose the $1 million the city has set aside for the renovation.

So the neighborhood voted Thursday to chip in $500,000 toward the 83-year-old pool at 154 Columbia Drive. That contribution comes from money that Tampa General Hospital donated in 2005 to create the Davis Islands Park Improvement Fund. The hospital gave the money to appease residents after the City Council allowed the hospital to lease land in a waterfront park for a parking garage.

The Jenkins and Williams pools were among three pools closed at the end of the 2008 summer season after they could not meet requirements of a new federal law meant to prevent drownings.

The other pool, Interbay in South Tampa, was repaired and opened last summer.

Many residents were unhappy with the city's designs for Jenkins Pool, revealed to them in June.

The original depth had been set at 3.5 feet at one end, 5 feet in the middle and 4 feet at the other end. It also called for a ramp for disabled people to get into the pool.

Residents wanted a pool with a deep end of 8 feet and no ramp.

Last week, Buckhorn offered to increase the 4 feet to 5 feet.

Wednesday, he called Jenn Fadal, a resident and chairwoman of the committee to save Roy Jenkins Pool, with a final offer: another foot deep and no ramp.

Now, the design calls for the pool to go from 3.5 feet to 6 feet and for a lift to lower disabled people into the shallow end.

Some were still not happy.

One said residents waited years for the pool to be updated, and now were being told to wait longer for complete renovations to the complex, which originally had three pools above meeting rooms.

Many wanted a heated pool and a longer open season. Most still wanted a deeper pool.

Brad Suder, superintendent for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the city would plan for what it could do now. He told residents the department's budget is tight: It lost 300 positions over four years, and a year-round heated pool could cost another $350,000.

"I know it's not everything everyone wants," he said. "We're trying to live within our means."

He said windows and awnings at the historic pool structure cost more compared with the Williams Park Pool, which is newer.

City Council member Harry Cohen, who was at the meeting, warned Davis Islands residents that the city is facing a $30 million deficit next year. The aquatics budget of $6.5 million, which includes $1 million for this pool, is all the plan calls for.

If the residents had voted no, he said, "The mayor told me last night he was going to take the money and put it toward another aquatics facility."

One woman said to let the mayor use the money somewhere else. Across the room came a resounding no. Hers was the lone dissenting vote.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 316-8342.

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