Recovering from financial issues, City of Niles debates reopening pool

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NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The City of Niles remains in fiscal emergency and though it’s showing signs of recovery, money is still tight. That’s why there’s opposition to one group’s plan to reopen the Niles swimming pool.

The city’s municipal swimming pool hasn’t been used since the summer of 2013. The pool building’s in bad shape and a water pipe needs to be repaired under the pool.

But there’s still a group that is passionate about reopening it next season.

Al Cantola will be Niles’ next Fourth Ward councilman. He’s also a leader of the committee to reopen the pool.

“Parks are not designed to make money. They’re not a business. They’re designed to enrich your community and have something for the people to do that are surrounding. We have a beautiful pool here,” he said.

Cantola said they want to reopen the pool to improve quality of life in the city.

Those against it say the city can’t afford it.

“We’re certainly recovering but we’re not recovered and I think taking on an expense like that is just not possible,” John Davis said.

Davis is on the fiscal commission — appointed by Governor John Kasich — overseeing the Niles fiscal emergency. The commission has the final say on whether the pool reopens.

“I do respect the passion those people have but I have to look at it dollars and cents, and I just don’t think we can justify it,” Davis said.

A study completed in May by Phillips/Sekanick Architects of Warren recommended “the demolition of…the Waddell Park Pool and Pool Building.”

Cantola’s plan is for the pool building to remain closed. It needs major repairs, especially a new roof, which he said can be done later with grants. His plan is for people to enter the pool through the wellness center next door.

“Having people come through there in the summer months is really not a bad thing because our summer months in the wellness center right now are our slower time frame,” Cantola said.

The study also states it’ll cost $1.8 million to replace the pool but Cantola said the pool doesn’t need to be replaced.

“As far as the architects’ report as a whole, the numbers are definitely skewed way, extremely too high.”

There’s a good chance the city will receive in the next few months a $67,000 state grant, which Cantola said is enough to make the pool operational. But the $40,000 for lifeguards will have to come from the city’s already lean general fund.

Cantola said that can be made back in concession sales and fees.

But Davis doesn’t think the pool will get the crowd they’re expecting.

“I think the kids have moved on to doing other things. I’m not saying I’m for the other things, like Gameboy and this, but that’s what they’re doing,” he said.

Councilman Steve Papalas, who is not running for re-election, said, “Tear it down and have everything pushed into the pool…That pool is a loser.”

He said using the wellness center for an entrance is not logistically possible.

“You can’t do that. You’ll have water all over the place.”

Councilwoman Linda Marchese, who is running unopposed, said the pool would be good for the city.

“The people have passed taxes, passed levies, they’ve given so much back, why not give it back to them? Before we demolish the pool, let’s try reopening it one time and see if it works.”

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