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No frills is better than no pool, city decide

After years of discussing what kind of swimming pool should be built at the beach, the city has settled on a basic pool for competitive swimming without the extra features it once considered.

That's exactly what residents asked for all along.

"I'm glad to hear that," said Sheila Cole, president of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce. "That was what we asked for in the first place. The rest was the vision of someone in the city."

City Manager Mike Roberto said he plans to recommend the no-frills pool to the City Commission for approval. But he has no timetable for making that recommendation or for building the pool, which is expected to cost about $500,000.

Unlike other public pools in Clearwater, the beach pool, to be at Mandalay and Bay Esplanade avenues, was considered as a site for an "aquatic center" with amenities such as a mushroom-shaped machine that would shoot water.

City officials said aquatic centers are being built in other cities and are the latest trend in pools.

But amenities increased the price of the pool to $700,000, which is $200,000 more than was budgeted. City commissioners voted against the project last year because of the cost.

Anne Garris, a longtime beach resident who urged the commission to vote for the pool, said she did not oppose the amenities. She just wanted to make sure the pool would have lanes for competitive swimming and that it would be heated so it could be open year-round.

"The rest would have been nice, but if they're so poverty-stricken they can't afford it, then that's fine," Garris said.

For years, commissioners promised beach residents a new pool after the old one was removed to make way for the new Pier 60 park. After the commission vote in December, city staffers went back to the drawing board.

They considered building a water slide park or a water playground with water guns and geysers. They also looked at spending the money on a different project, such as a skate park, or improving other pools around the city.

Roberto said he favors a more basic pool because that's what a majority of commissioners wanted.

"It seems like almost a step backward," said Art Kader, acting director of the Parks and Recreation Department, who favored the amenities. "But we're going to replace what (residents) lost."

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