Fate of Niles swimming pool still up in the air

NILES — Whether the Niles swimming pool will be repaired and opened again remains to be seen.

That hasn’t stopped residents Aimee Cantola, the wife of newly elected 4th Ward Councilman Al Cantola, and Beth Nolen from pushing to have it opened even when it appears they are fighting a losing battle. The two formed a Save the Pool Committee that continues to seek answers about the status of the pool.

“We’re hoping to meet with (Parks and Recreation Director) Robert Burke this week,” Nolen said. “Hopefully he can get everyone together and we can move forward with this.”

The 9,250 square-foot pool, built in 1932, hasn’t been refurbished since the 1980s. The pool building in particular, which stores the pumphouse and filtration system, is in bad shape and the cost to demolish the building and pool completely is around $275,000 to $325,000, according to information provided by the city.

The pool and building were closed in 2014 when the city was unable to pay its lifeguards because of its fiscal emergency status. The facility has been unused since, except to store the roughly 6,100 residential water meters still awaiting installation.

Although officials know there is a water pipe leak underneath the pool, it’s not clear how big the problem is and an engineering study would be required to fully address it, Burke said. It remains to be seen whether a $67,500 grant secured to fix the pool is enough to address all the problems, Burke said, but he said assessing the project is a top priority.

As to the status of the building, Burke said the problem is that filtration systems are in the building and people still need access to maintain the systems.

“There’s a liability issue,” Burke said. “To me it’s unsafe and I wouldn’t let my own children walk in there.”

Burke, who headed the Youngstown Parks and Recreation Department for five years, said it costs approximately $60,000 to operate a pool for eight weeks with an additional $24,000 for security. Although grant dollars have been secured for fixing the pool, City Council would have to appropriate money from the general fund for pool operations.

Council members appear divided on the issue with some, like Councilwoman Linda Marchese, D-3rd Ward, supportive of opening the pool for residents, and others, like Councilman Steve Mientkiewicz, D-2nd Ward, opposed to reopening it.

Even if the pool doesn’t work out, Burke said he would like to try to use the grant to repurpose the pool property if possible. Possibile uses include a splash pad or walking trail, he said, and a splash pad would cost approximately $45,000 to build and there are minimal operational costs.

The cost to rebuild a pool of the same size would be around $1.8 million, according to information provided by the city, which is the same amount of dollars being sought through the state capital budget to help with overhauls to Eastwood Field.

Aimee Cantola said she understands the city still has financial issues, but she believes the residents deserve to see the pool re-opened and she questions why no one in the city is answering why they can’t move forward with repair of a broken pipe.

“If you don’t have $40,000 to operate the pool where are you going to find $325,000 to come in here, demolish the pool and build a splash pad,” she said.