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Friday, April 27, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns
Parks board pushes for $62M for pools
Austin pools are in serious need of repairs. Everyone knows that, but the question is how much money the citizens are actually willing to pay to fix them.
Currently, $33 million of the proposed 2018 bond package totaling $851 million is specifically dedicated to giving the construction equivalent of emergency surgery to Austin’s aging pools.
However, Board Member Rick Cofer asked the Parks and Recreation Board at its April 24 meeting to reconsider that number. He explained that with almost double the funding that is now allocated, seven pools would be completely repaired and there would be $10 million left over for general repairs until the next bond comes around.
“Basically, $33 million doesn’t get the job done,” he said. “The department can only do a full replacement on two pools plus Colony Park.” The rest of the pools that are currently in critical condition would have to split $15 million for what Cofer called “duct tape repairs.”
He argued that in the case of Austin’s pools, they are in such dire condition that partially patching them up now will only exacerbate the costs in the future because the repairs will become more frequent and compound the costs. According to him, this could be avoided by simply spending more money now.
“At $62 million there is significantly less duct taping. There can be a full replacement of all the critical pools,” Cofer said.
The aquatics task force in charge of coming up with the original request wanted to ask for $124 million but was not confident that the public would be able to swallow that price tag. It concluded that a compromise for $62 million would be sufficient. The Bond Election Advisory Task Force recommended the current funding allocation of $33 million.
The seven pools that would be repaired under the $62 million plan are Colony Park, Givens, Mabel Davis, Civitan, Gillis, Montopolis and Northwest.
“I’m much more comfortable with the $62 million than the $33 million,” said Board Chair Jane Rivera, who also sat on the task force.
Board Member Richard DePalma, however, wasn’t convinced of the benefits of asking for more money. As the board member representing District 8 in Southwest Austin, he said, “I don’t see any incentive here for Southwest Austin to vote for such a large number.” In fact, he suggested that the presented list of pools that would be recipients of the repairs would “give another reason for Southwest Austin to vote against the bond.” There are no pools on the list from that district.
Cofer agreed, saying, “You’re right, this doesn’t address the needs of Southwest Austin.” To help ensure the best chance of Austinites voting for $62 million for pools, Cofer said he would confer with DePalma to see how they could address the needs of Southwest Austin pools, specifically Dick Nichols, and bring the discussion back to the board for the May meeting.
“We want to get it voted for,” noted Rivera.
Photo By Pfc. Levi Schultz.
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