The effort to keep one of the city of Watertown’s cherished assets open took yet another twist this week.
Using the archives of the Watertown Daily Times, City Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero produced evidence that officials made use of state grants when constructing the Steve D. Alteri Municipal Swimming Pool at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. She said it’s possible this could affect whether the city can demolish it as Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and all other council members want to do.
During the City Council meeting Tuesday, Mrs. Ruggiero will propose a resolution to halt the scheduled destruction of the pool. She said this would give authorities time to see if New York rules prohibit dismantling the pool because planners used state funds to create it.
Her colleagues on the council should support this measure. As we’ve previously argued on this page, there’s no need for the city to rush into demolishing the pool. There’s time to debate whether this is the best plan or if another course of action should be taken.
Mr. Smith once again said the city cannot afford to operate the Thompson Park pool and the William J. Flynn Municipal Swimming Pool along with the Alteri pool. He said that no municipality of comparable size runs three pools. The estimated cost to demolish the Alteri pool would be lower than the annual expenses to keep it open, he added.
The problem here is that Mr. Smith could not provide the Watertown Daily Times with any figures to back up his statement. In addition, City Manager Kenneth A. Mix did not know how much it costs the city to operate Alteri pool each season.
So we have no reliable numbers on which to make an informed decision at this time. This is compounded by the fact that the city did not open Alteri pool this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, so its financial effect on this year’s budget is minimal at best.
Halting the proposed destruction of Alteri pool for the time being won’t cost the city all that much money. This is a proposal that can be put on the back burner for the time being without too much of a strain on city finances.
So before going ahead with the demolition project, we request that Mr. Smith produce figures showing how much it would cost Watertown to keep Alteri pool intact for the next six to seven months as opposed to ripping it apart right now. At the same time, he can show how much the pool costs to run each year.
The mayor may have a valid point about the city not being able to afford to operate all three pools. But we won’t know that until we examine the numbers. And it can’t cost all that much to maintain Alteri pool in its current state for the fall and winter.
This buys city officials time to consider whether demolishing Alteri pool is the best solution. It’s in good shape and was often the most used pool of the three.
Perhaps it would be more appropriate to remove the Flynn pool. The fact is we don’t know at this moment, so proceeding with plans to dismantle the Alteri pool doesn’t make sense. Let’s put this idea on hold, review the figures and weigh all our options early next year.