Council Delays Vote On Colonial Park Pool Closure
Although the West U. City Council seems to be in agreement that Colonial Park Pool should close after Labor Day, the official vote has been delayed until the June 22 council meeting. Newly-elected Councilman Steven Segal suggested the delay to give residents a chance to express their opinions on the closure. Segal also wanted more details from city staff on pool options for lap swimmers if both pool are closed for the winter.
Mayor Bob Kelly and Councilmen Chuck Guffey and George Boehme voted to approve the delay – Councilman Bob Fry was absent.
“I still think overwhelmingly this is the way to go, but I think the right thing to do is to hear from people,” said Guffey, who added that he is a lap swimmer, and doesn’t necessarily like the idea of both pools being closed at once. “I don’t like to lose my pools in the city I pay taxes in, but I won’t mind if it would save half a million dollars.”
The closure of both pools at the same time was recommended by city staff as a cost-saving measure and after it became clear that the Fitness Center pool would not be ready in time for winter swim. By having both projects managed at the same time, it could save the city an estimated $68,000 per month for a six to nine month period.
The city would be “managing two projects for the same money,” according to City Manager Michael Ross.
“Not everyone is going to be pleased, whatever we do,” said Boehme. “…I think this is an incredible amount of money we are going to save…we do have a group of swimmers and I think we need to bend over backwards to try to accommodate them.”
Boehme asked Parks and Recreation Director Tim O’Connor how many swimmers use Colonial on an average winter day. O’Connor estimated about 30 people per day during the winter, and maybe 60, weather permitting, from Labor Day through November.
Segal questioned O’Connor about swimming facilities available to lap swimmers through the winter. Although O’Connor and Ross mentioned “inter-local agreements,” residents’ options seem to be the same options available to anyone. The Weekley YMCA is not extending special membership fees or use of facilities, but residents are welcome to join and have use of all facilities. Non-residents of the City of Bellaire can purchase as identification card for $15, and then purchase a multi-use pass for adults for $180 which includes use of the Aquatic Center, Evergreen pool and the therapy pool at Evergreen Park. A winter swim pass just for the therapy pool is $50 for the first family member and $14 for each additional member.
O’Connor said he was most optimistic about the new pool under construction at Rice University, but that Rice is currently being very “conservative” to ensure they could accommodate staff and students before extending use of the pool to others. Boehme suggested contacting the athletic director of Rice, a West U. resident.
O’Connor said he thought the best options for residents were the pools in Bellaire and the UT pool, located about 15 minutes away, south of the Medical Center, where swimmers can use the pool for $3 per visit, with no parking costs.
Kelly brought up the idea of the city financing the use of outside pools by residents, which O’Connor said would be prohibitively expensive.
Council will vote on the matter at their June 22 meeting. Should council vote in favor of the closure, Colonial Park pool will close after Labor Day, and the city hopes for a grand opening of the new pool during Memorial Day weekend next year. The Fitness Center pool is scheduled to open in March of next year.