Thursday, April 26, 2018
Politics

Davis Islands must chip in for pool upgrades, but many unhappy with design

TAMPA— A $1.5 million renovation at a historic pool on Davis Islands may come to an impasse this week.

City officials plan to rebuild Roy Jenkins Pool with a ramp along one side and a maximum depth of 5 feet — a design that has some seething.

Before it was closed in 2008, the old swimming complex had a pool with a deep end, and some residents want the new pool to have one as well, allowing for diving and professional training sessions. Also, some say, the proposed ramp would be a nuisance, limiting space inside the pool.

Resident Lisa Kane DeVitto called the design the "weirdest abomination I've ever seen."

The city plans to spend $1 million on the pool — but only if Davis Islands residents chip in another $500,000 from their neighborhood park improvement fund. Residents will vote on whether to spend the money at a public meeting Thursday.

The city didn't include them in the planning process, says DeVitto, who has a pool in her back yard and never got to swim in the old pool.

"They've drawn a line in the sand," she said. "Take it or leave it."

City officials have worked on the pool design since last year but have not managed to please all residents.

It's a "giant kiddie pool," DeVitto said, adding that it would hinder residents from swimming laps, which many want to do.

But late last week Santiago Corrada, the mayor's chief of staff, called Jenn Fadal, a resident and chairwoman of the committee to save Roy Jenkins Pool, with a new offer. In the latest design, he said, the pool depth would go from 3.5 feet on one end to 5 feet in the middle, continuing at 5 feet to the other end. The prior depth had been 3.5 feet at one end, 5 feet in the middle, and inching back up to 4 feet at the other end.

It was unclear Friday whether Corrada's change would alter resident reaction to the pool. But if neighbors vote against contributing to the city's design, the pool may remain closed and deteriorate further, said Fadal, who has heard from people both for and against the city's prior proposals.

The pool, at 154 Columbia Drive, has a long history on the island.

Charner Reese's great-grandfather, Perry Wall, was Tampa's mayor in 1928 when the pool was completed. Reese grew up in the community and learned to swim there.

She has fond memories of the pool and agreed that the city's proposals had fallen short of residents' wishes.

The city closed the pool at the end of the 2008 summer season. It was one of three city pools that were unable to meet a federal antidrowning law requiring drain covers.

The Interbay pool was repaired and opened last summer. Also last year, city officials agreed to fund an estimated $1.2 million in repairs to reopen Williams Park Pool in east Tampa.

Now, Fadal says, the city isn't playing fair when it comes to Davis Islands.

"Their residents made a big stink," she said of the area surrounding Williams pool. "As far as I know that community is not giving any money."

The Roy Jenkins Pool was used as a seasonal pool, open nine weeks in the summer, and averaged a weekly attendance of 349 before closing. Fadal said she plans to vote in favor of helping the city pay for the pool because she fears it won't be repaired at all otherwise.

The community's contribution would come 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 Tampa City Council allowed the hospital to lease less than a half acre of waterfront park property on the island. The hospital built a 1,400-space parking garage there.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

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