Copyright 2013 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
October 15, 2013 Tuesday
B News; Pg. 1
|County Board chair pushes to fix pools | Position counters county exec, who backs changing to skate park, splash pad|
STEVE SCHULTZE, firstname.lastname@example.org Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
It makes more sense to fix Milwaukee County's two indoor pools than to tear them down and replace them with a skateboard park and a splash pad, County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic says.
The highest priority repairs needed for the pools at Pulaski and Noyes parks could be done for $1.6 million and additional "medium priority" upgrades would bring the price up to $2.7 million, county Parks Director John Dargle Jr. said.
Razing the indoor pools and building the skate park and splash pad would cost an estimated $2.6 million - more than the price for the most needed repairs to the pools and slightly less if less critical fixes are added.
A full upgrade of both pools would cost an estimated $4.2 million.
County Executive Chris Abele has proposed closing both pools and installing the skateboard park at Noyes, at 8235 W. Good Hope Road on Milwaukee's far northwest side, and building a splash pad at Pulaski, on the city's south side at 2677 S. 16th St.
"The skate park will provide approximately 9, 500 square feet of contoured, skateable concrete surface and other skate amenities," Abele's budget says. The splash pad would feature "water toys that shower, squirt and spray users."
Those amenities should draw more people than the pools and would be less costly to operate, according to Abele. The pools cost a combined $628,000 last year, with admission charges covering about $170,000 of the cost, county figures show.
The contentious pool-closing issue drew protests when raised by Scott Walker during his eight-year tenure as county executive and again when Abele successfully pressed for razing the Moody Park Pool last year.
About a dozen senior citizens and regular users of Noyes and Pulaski objected last week to the latest closing plan, saying the pools were important exercise and social outlets.
"Noyes Pool has been a blessing in my life," said David Erickson, who said he'd been swimming there for 30 years and still
"Noyes Pool has been a blessing in my life."
David Erickson, who said he'd been swimming at Noyes for 30 years goes three times a week.
Others said they provide important exercise they couldn't get elsewhere without paying more. The county charges adults $3 and children $2 admission to both indoor pools.
Dargle said other nearby indoor pools could be used by the Noyes and Pulaski pool patrons. But those would likely charge more, the senior swimmers said.
In 2009, Walker proposed closing the indoor pools, as well as five deep-well outdoor pools, but the County Board rejected the plan.
Instead, the board approved a plan to spend $6 million to upgrade Noyes and Pulaski pools to indoor water parks, overriding a veto by Walker.
But that project was never started and the money was shifted in 2011 to cover the costs of O'Donnell Park repairs after the 2010 fatality there. A 15-year-old boy was killed and two others were injured when a 13-ton concrete panel fell from the O'Donnell parking garage facade.
The decision to reverse course on the Pulaski and Noyes expansions remains a sore spot with Dimitrijevic, who is holding a town hall meeting on Abele's proposed pool closings at 6 p.m. Thursday at Pulaski Pool.
Noyes' $10.39 net cost per swimmer to operate is one of the county's costliest. Pulaski's cost per swimmer was $6.02, still higher than all but three of the county's 13 pools.
Dargle told county supervisors he didn't request the pool closures but had agreed to them in discussions with Abele and other county staff.
A proposal by Abele to sell O'Donnell also drew criticism. The county has had discussions about selling the garage, which reportedly has been appraised at $14.5 million, to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.
Jim Goulee, executive director of The Park People advocacy group, said selling O'Donnell would be a foolish business decision because three new planned high-rise buildings nearby should lead to higher parking revenue for the county.
"The more fundamental question is when is it appropriate to sell a park?" Goulee said. "We say, never."
The O'Donnell facility is built into the bluff near Lake Michigan on Lincoln Memorial Drive and features an upper plaza.
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October 16, 2013