WATERTOWN — Now that dust from the election has settled, the new City Council might still decide whether it’s worth putting a stop to the controversial Thompson Park pool project.

During the campaign, Mayor-elect Jeffrey M. Smith said he wanted to stop work on the $3.1 million Thompson Park pool and bathhouse project, contending the city could not afford it and didn’t need a third pool.

“My views on the pool haven’t changed,” he said, adding that the project should move forward but only if work is already “substantially done.”

But the project hit a major milestone a day after the election. Workers began pouring cement on the bottom of the pool that will feature four swimming lanes and a zero-grade entrance.

On Wednesday, the general contractor brought in a bigger work crew to pour 60 cubic square feet of concrete on the pool’s bottom, City Engineer Michael DeLaney said.

If the weather cooperates on Thursday, the crew hopes to finish pouring the rest of the concrete with another 85 cubic square feet. The cement pouring was going to start on Tuesday and take three days, but rain prevented a delay of a day.

It ended up getting done in two days, instead, Mr. DeLaney said.

The pool project was a major campaign issue. Mr. Smith and council candidates, Sarah V. Compo and Jesse CP Roshia, ran on a team opposing the new pool and bathhouse because of its cost.

Now that it appears the project will move ahead, the new council could look at a different way to pay for the pool.

In August, council members Cody J. Horbacz, Ryan Henry Wilkinson and Lisa A. Ruggiero didn’t have the four votes needed to bond for the project, so they approved using the controversial method of taking $2.9 million from the city’s fund balance.

After the new council takes office on Jan. 1, the new majority of Mr. Smith, Councilwoman Compo and Mr. Roshia could reconsider bonding for the project.

“It’s something we should look at,” Councilwoman Compo said, adding that she thinks it’s fiscally more responsible to borrow the money for it.

Mr. Roshia hopes to talk to City Comptroller James E. Mills to see if that method is still possible to pay for it.

And they might have that fourth vote needed with Councilman Henry Wilkinson, who agreed it should be considered.

“I’d definitely vote for that,” he said, stressing the importance of getting the project done for the community.

While the Thompson Park pool looks like it will proceed, Mayor-elect Smith reiterated his belief that the city doesn’t need three pools.

He will push for an evaluation of the two existing pools, one at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds and the other at the North Elementary School, that the city operates during the summer. It costs the city between $70,000 and $100,000 to staff and maintain every summer, he said.

“We don’t need three pools that are used eight or 10 weeks during the summer,” he said.

The study would look at the two pools’ conditions, how much it would take to repair them and the expense it takes to maintain them.

Depending on the findings, Mr. Smith might advocate to close one of the two existing pools.

Which one would it be?

He would not say on Wednesday.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(1) comment


Why can't the money taken out of the fund balance just be put back in the fund balance, like the city borrowing from itself, rather than borrowed? That would save on interest, though of course it would leave the city without an emergency fund in the meantime. Also shouldn't "rain prevented a delay" be "rain caused a delay"?

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