TAMPA — Tampa City Council members want officials to revive the city’s historic Cuscaden Pool in East Tampa - and the sooner, the better.
“We’ve got to find a way to get this pool fixed and open again,” Councilman Harry Cohen said this morning during nearly an hour of discussion about the fate of the pool in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.
The pool, built above ground in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, has been plagued by structural and mechanical problems over the last decade. It underwent nearly $3 million in federally funded renovations that ended in 2005. By 2009, the pool was leaking 450,000 gallons of water a year, and then-Mayor Pam Iorio shut it down.
Since then, the pool has sat vacant and empty, baking in the sun.
“The condition of the pool now is most likely considerably worse than when the problem first presented itself,” Cohen said.
This morning’s discussion was the council latest debate on Cuscaden. In April, parks director Greg Bayor told council members the city’s 2014 budget forecast had $2.4 million set aside for Cuscaden and Hicks pools.
Those funds failed to materialize in the budget that took effect Oct. 1.
During budget hearings in September, Cuscaden’s neighbors expressed frustration with the long wait to reopen the pool. While Cuscaden has sat in limbo, two other pools also closed by the city for long periods - Williams Park and Roy Jenkins - have been renovated and reopened.
Williams Park in East Tampa got $1.2 million in renovations. Roy Jenkins Pool on Davis Islands got $2.5 million for repairs.
City officials say the pool could cost $1.5 million to repair and reopen. That’s about a quarter of the $6 million the city has budgeted for pool work over the next five years.
“If we want to do work on Cuscaden, we’re going to have to identify funding sources,” Dennis Rogero, chief of staff for Mayor Bob Buckhorn, told council members this morning.
That’s fine, said Councilman Frank Reddick, whose district includes Cuscaden.
“Go back to your desk, go back to your computer and look at the budget,” Reddick said to Rogero, Buckhorn’s former budget director. “I’m pretty sure you can come up with $1.5 million.”
Even if city officials could find the money this year, it would still take up to 10 months to bring a contractor on board to do the work, contracts administrator David Vaughn told council members.
Reddick asked Rogero and the city staff to come back to the council on Dec. 5 with possible ways to fund the repairs, even if they have to take money away from other projects in the 2015 budget.
Between now and next October, the city should look into raising private funds to offset the cost of repairs, Cohen said.
In the meantime, the pool continues to break down.
“We have a phrase, ‘demolition by neglect,’” Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said. The city often forces private property owners to stabilize historic properties to prevent further deterioration until they can make repairs.
“We have to hold ourselves accountable by the same definition,” Montelione said.
Back in the spring, Bayor promised council members the city wouldn’t abandon the historic pool.
Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin reminded city officials that the pool, which she attended as a child, has a lot of meaning for city residents.
“This pool, it’s a jewel and an asset,” Capin said. “We have to protect this treasure that we have in our city.”