WATERTOWN — The new majority on City Council showed Monday night it has enough support to pursue giving north-side residents back the William J. Flynn Municipal Swimming Pool at North Elementary School.
After nearly three hours of discussion, Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero and new Councilmen Cliff G. Olney III and Patrick J. Hickey informally agreed to move forward with a Flynn pool project.
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo-Pierce opposed spending at least $735,000 on making repairs to the pool, arguing that the city doesn’t need three pools in the summer and it cannot afford them.
“The city doesn’t need a pool that will be used 10, 12 weeks a year,” Mayor Smith said.
In the informal vote on Monday night, City Manager Kenneth A. Mix was instructed to have an engineering firm look at a couple of alternatives for the pool project and come up with an estimate for its cost.
Depending on those findings, the project could either result in major repairs or, if it is determined repairs would cost too much, it may be determined that it would be more practical to construct a new one.
Councilwoman Ruggiero and the two new councilmen campaigned this fall on the city opening three pools.
Councilman Olney, who just took office on Jan. 1, said north-side residents deserve a project like the pool because the city has unfairly ignored that side of the city for years.
He also said the city should pursue other capital improvement projects that could bring more people into the city for visits.
“A third pool is not going to bring people in the city,” the mayor countered.
For most of three hours, the discussion centered on why the Flynn pool project was initially estimated at $300,000 and then ballooned to $735,000, whether it was possible to open three pools and the status of getting the repairs on the Steve D. Alteri Municipal Swimming Pool at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds done in time for the summer.
City Engineer Michael Delaney said it was only after an inspection on the pool and a more detailed analysis were completed that he determined the repairs would cost $735,000.
Mr. Delaney also told council members that the Flynn pool repairs would be a short-term solution, adding he could not guarantee how long they would last.
Councilman Olney also tried to ascertain whether the work on the Flynn pool could be completed before next summer.
But city pool consultant Brian Fraser, owner of Sundance Leisure, said supply chain issues and the demand for hiring contractors to get the Flynn pool repairs were too much to overcome.
“I couldn’t do it and no one in the state could,” Mr. Fraser said.
During the discussion, Councilman Olney said he kept pushing to find a way to get the Flynn pool open this summer because he promised voters that’s what he would do if elected.
After the three hours, the three council members settled on opening the Alteri and Thompson Park pools in the summer and not giving up on the Flynn pool project in 2023.
The former council approved a $112,000 contract for Sundance Leisure to complete repairs on the Alteri pool, which includes moving a fairly new filter from the Flynn pool to the Alteri fairgrounds pool.
Some initial work on the Alteri pool repairs began on Monday. That work will continue on Thursday, Mr. Delaney said.
During the discussion, the three council members said they would support looking into Councilwoman Compo-Pierce’s idea to create a splash pad/ice rink on the city’s north side.
She proposed that project as an alternative to fixing the Flynn pool.
But the three council members stressed that the splash pad/ice rink would be in addition to reopening the Flynn pool.
Mayor Smith wondered why the city would operate three pools and not pursue new turf on the athletic fields at the fairgrounds because it would “diversify” what the recreation department can offer.
At the end of the meeting, the mayor and Councilman Olney had a long debate about what the city should offer its residents. The councilman believes the city should pursue projects that they could enjoy, while the mayor insisted that the city cannot afford them.
The three council member majority also agreed that the city should try to open at least either the Alteri or Thompson Park pools by the end of May.