Can Tulsa afford more pools?

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Reported by: Janna Clark
Updated: 7/11/2013 10:28 am Published: 7/11/2013 10:27 am

The city of Tulsa is proposing building new swimming pools but since 2000, the city has closed pools, and this summer, cut back hours on splash pads.

Meagan Cook and her kids are the lucky ones. They swim at Whiteside -- one of the last five Tulsa pools still open.

"I think it's ridiculous. I think they should have more city pools open," Cook said.

At the height in 1999, 23 pools were open. Then a few years later, the city closed 18 of them.

"It's 110 degrees index. The kids want to go swimming and they can't go," Cook said.

The city says it was too expensive to keep them open. And as it started closing pools, it started opening splash pads as a more affordable alternative. But this summer, the city cut back hours because it says it can't afford to keep them open as much.

"You have to sacrifice something," said Tulsa Parks' Mike Battenfield.

Battenfield says now the city wants to build three new pools with swimming areas, slides and water features.

One would replace the one at Reed Park and would cost $2.2 million.

Lacy Park's would cost $2.4 million.

And at McClure Park, it would cost $4.4 million.

Whiteside and Berry pools would get repairs and stay open.

Back in 2002, the city says it cost more than $700,000 to run 22 pools. Last summer, it cost $350,000 to run the five remaining ones.

The city couldn't give FOX23 an estimate on what it would cost to run the new ones, but said it should be cheaper than running old ones.

"Why can't we upgrade the pools we already have?" Cook wondered

"They're just a hole in the ground," Battenfield said.

Battenfield said the pools are too dilapidated to fix, and the old equipment costs too much to operate. The city says new pools would be more energy-efficient.

"We hope the savings there will offset any cost we have," Battenfield said.

But with the city's history of closing pools and now cutting back splash pad hours, if Tulsa taxpayers agreed to pay the $9 million total to build and renovate pools, Cook wonders if the city could even keep them open.

"Probably not," Cook said.

But Battenfield's ready to do it.

"That's always a fear -- you don't know what the local and national economy is going to do. It's a gamble, but one we're willing to take," Battenfield said.

The capitol improvement project could be on the November ballot.

It will replace the previous 2008 "Fix Our Streets" program, which expires in 2014. The city will hold five meetings to get citizen input.

All meetings will begin at 6 p.m.

July 16 – Hardesty Regional Library Frossard Auditorium, 8316 E. 93rd St. (Districts 7 and 8)
July 30 – Martin Regional Library Auditorium, 2601 S. Garnett Road (Districts 5 and 6)
Aug. 5 – OU-Tulsa Schusterman Center Auditorium, 4502 E. 41st St. (Districts 4 and 9)
Aug. 6 – Rudisill Regional Library – Library Hall, 1520 N. Hartford Ave. (Districts 1 and 3)
Aug. 13 – Carbondale Assembly of God, 2135 W. 51st St. (District 2)

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

bowlerdave - 7/11/2013 10:46 AM
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