Parks Board Chair Says Board Meeting Not Essential For Staff To Make Recommendation To Council
Despite questions from some West U. residents, it is not unusual for staff to go ahead with Colonial Park recommendations without input from the Parks Board. Council will hear, and likely vote on, the plans for the Colonial Park building as well as an early closure of the pool at their Monday night meeting, despite the fact that the June 4 Parks Board meeting was cancelled due to lack of quorum. The board was scheduled to here a presentation on the building plans.
“We are an advisory board,” said Parks Board Chair Russ Schulze. “That means we are not decision makers. We can make recommendations, but it’s not mandatory that they (council) have it from us. If staff wants to go ahead and make a recommendation…and council wants to act on it, that’s fine.”
City staff will recommend at a 5 p.m. Special Council meeting Monday night that council approve the proposed floor plan for the new Colonial Park building, which is hasn’t changed since the November bond election, other than changing the cardio studio into a multipurpose room and switching the entry and control room from the north side of the building to the south side, allowing for a Byron Street entrance and exit.
The elevation and architecture of the building are consistent with the approved plans for the Fitness Center, which was recommended by the Parks Board.
The decision that may cause some controversy, especially among lap swimmers, is the recommendation to close Colonial Park pool after Labor Day. The original plan was to have the Fitness Center pool up and running before closing Colonial Park pool, which would give the city at least one swimming pool open at all times.
Due to planning delays, the Fitness Center pool will not be completed until around March of next year. In order to have Colonial Park pool open for next year’s summer swimming season, it will have to close later this year.
City staff says the early closure will result in construction and operational savings, shorten the overall construction schedule, allow for both facilities to be open by next summer, allow the city to “capitalize on the summer revenue stream” and allow staff adequate time to plan for the grand openings of both facilities.
Negative aspects of the early closure include the fact that the city will be without a pool, which means no lap swimming, for a seven month period, from September of this year to March, 2010. The city will also be without a racquetball court, weight room or cardio studio for the same amount of time.
The city has agreements with the Weekley YMCA and the Bellaire Parks and Recreation Department, which will allow West U. residents to use those facilities during the construction period.
Several residents are unhappy with the recommendations.
One resident says that after 30 years of swimming at Colonial Park, he signed up for membership at the Weekley YMCA due to his “disgust” with the parks planning process. Another lap swimmer, who has used Colonial Park pool since 1989, has also joined another facility due to the city’s plans. She says the lap swimmers are the only people who have consistently used the pool, and feels that city staff lied to residents concerning plans for the pool facilities.