For the last two summers maintenance costs and budget issues have shuttered Fort Worth city pools. But the city council appears ready to take some kind of action to get the water flowing again at either existing or possibly new pools. It is a situation though some on the council and in the public call frustrating.
Carnetha Logan lives just down the street from the Sycamore Spray Pad, the only active aquatics facility in the city.
"I wish we had more of them, especially for the younger kids with it being so hot out," said Logan. "The only place we can cool off now is in the front yard with a water hose. So yeah, it's a little frustrating."
That frustration isn't just felt by residents who live near, or far from, the park, as it sounds like most members of the city council are growing tired of not having open pools for residents to use during this record breaking summer.
"I'm very disappointed that more progress hasn't been made, this looks like the same report we had almost a year ago," said city councilwoman Kathleen Hicks. "It's just so frustrating that we seem to find money for the City of Fort Worth when we want to find it and then it comes to the things that aren't so sexy and we play around with it."
Mayor Betsy Price said city pools were a major issue during her campaign for office and took lots of notes during Parks and Community Service Director Richard Zavala's presentation before the council Tuesday morning.
"It concerns me that at the earliest we won't have swimming until 2014 or more, it's just not acceptable," said Price during the meeting.
The parks department is scheduled to start developing a new aquatics plan in the next few months, with recommendations due next March. That was a timeline the council found equally frustrating as it would leave little time for arrangements to be made for next summer.
"I think we need to accelerate this," councilman Zim Zimmerman said in reference to the timeline. "So whatever we decide to do we're ready to implement for the upcoming, next summer."
City Manager Tom Higgins and Councilman Danny Scarth both pointed out that the issue of deciding to fund some kind of aquatics program can be addressed during budget discussions which kick off next month. But getting pools open will not be a quick fix. Sheila Hill, Chair of the PACS Advisory Committee says it could take 18 months for a new pool to be built. The 2008 Aquatics Plan listed new medium sized aquatics facilities costing $6.5 million, with spray pads costing around $800,000 to build.
The city could also decide to continue partnerships within the community on a long term basis, not just the short term agreement the city is currently using with the Fort Worth YMCA. But several council members made it clear that this is a policy decision they need to decide on, and not leave it to staff.
"I think they all want it," said Hill, as she has spoken with several council members regarding the issue. "I mean it sits in their lap on what they're going to let happen. We can put master plans together for the next 20 years."
Renovating the now closed pools, all of which were built between 1926 and 1960 could be extremely costly and may not be worth it. Residents would just like to see something more than a single spray pad, especially given this year's near record breaking heat.