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Public Swimming Pools A Hot Topic For Fort Worth Council

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – If kids in Fort Worth want a way to beat the heat this summer, they’ll have to do it in a private or YMCA swimming pool.

For a second summer, the seven city-run pools remain closed due to budget constraints.

“It just makes no sense to have pools in place and close them for relatively small expense,” explained resident Edward Casati, who often drives children from his neighborhood to an east Fort Worth YMCA. “There’s no place for the kids to go otherwise, especially in 104-degree heat. A lot of these kids have no air conditioning. They have no place to go.”

Fort Worth council members seem ready to dive back into the pool business. The question is, if they do will they be in over their heads financially? “What is the minimum number where the water can be turned on and pools can be operated safely?” council member Sal Espino asked during a briefing about aquatic services Tuesday morning.

During the meeting the Fort Worth City Council heard long-term plans for reopening pools or building a new group of splash parks.

But it was the amount it would take to refurbish or bring up to code the existing pools, up to $13 million, that the parks department says it doesn’t have.

“Are there resources to do the operation?” Council Member Frank Moss asked Parks Director Richard Zavala. “No sir,” Zavala quickly answered.

Zavala told council members that when looking at the big picture of priorities in the city budget, a service that operated only a few months out of the year was hard to justify compared to year-round services.

Staff plans presented to council did not include near-term solutions, and they asked for more time to look at the problem, but that wasn’t what some council members wanted to hear.

“I’m very disappointed more progress hasn’t been made,” said Council Member Kathleen Hicks. “This seems like the same presentation we saw a year ago.”

Councilman Joel Burns stressed the need to always focus forward. “It’s all about priorities and we’re going to have to juggle those priorities as we go into budget discussions,” he said during the meting. “And now is the time to do it. Not wait until sometime next year after we’ve done our budget.

Incoming Mayor Betsy Price says she wants swimming pools at the front of budget discussions. “The idea that this wouldn’t come back to us until 2012 and then we wouldn’t be swimming until 2014 or more is just not acceptable,” she said. “We have to be a leader in this. I know other cities are suffering through this but we need to get out and do this.”

Price told council members that she wants options for reopening Fort Worth swimming pools on the table this fall.

See the full report below:

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