Council votes to demolish fairgrounds pool

People swim to beat the heat in July 2018 at the Alteri pool in Watertown. The City Council voted Monday night to fill in the pool. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The fairgrounds pool soon will be gone forever.

In a 4-1 vote on Monday night, the City Council decided to demolish the Alteri pool at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith was again joined by the same three council members — Ryan Henry-Wilkinson, Jesse Roshia and Sarah V. Compo — who voted to close the pool back in May.

Like she did then, Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero argued to save the pool in case a future council would want to reopen it.

Calling it “a perfectly good asset,” Councilwoman Ruggiero reiterated that the Alteri pool was popular for the people in the Sand Flats part of the city and expressed frustration that her colleagues made a decision “just to destroy it.”

“It’s blowing my mind,” she said.

Mayor Smith and the three council members said it was a financial decision that had to be made, contending that the city could not afford the $125,000 it would take to operate the Alteri pool for eight weeks during the city’s summer pool program.

“Nobody is excited about this,” Councilwoman Compo said. “But I’m in favor of it and moving on.”

Mayor Smith said it’s been a difficult budget year because of the financial downfall caused by the coronavirus and council members were forced to lay off city employees.

The Alteri pool will be replaced by a new one at Thompson Park that cost $3.1 million.

The four instructed City Engineer Michael Delaney to fill in the pool in a way that the area could be used for the city’s second splash pad. The city opened a spray ground at Thompson Park two summers ago.

They recommended filling in the hole with the cement from the pool, gravel and then topsoil, although Mr. Delaney warned that a splash pad might not be able to be built in that exact spot because that material could settle over time.

Mr. Delaney said he would provide the council “with more definitive numbers” on the cost to demolish the pool by next week and then it would be up to council members to decide when that would take place. Bids would have to go out and a contract awarded for the job.

The subject of decommissioning the pool came up during Monday’s work session so he could get the council to confirm to demolish the pool. The city runs a pool at North Elementary School, but it never opened this summer.

In a surprising move in May, the four voted to shut down the pool and decommission it during a budget session without letting the public know their intentions in advance.

Some residents, however, lobbied council members to open one of the pools this summer for children who couldn’t attend school and because the city’s summer recreation program could not open due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Thompson Park pool became a campaign issue during the last two rounds of city elections.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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