City Hall

As Council Talks About New Aquatic Centers, Griggs Plants Idea of Daylighting the Springs

Shortly before 1 p.m., the city council dove into that plan to dry up the city's 17 pools and replace them with those family aquatic centers -- a plan that's "just the beginning of a plan," as Park and Rec head Paul Dyer cautioned the council. It's still going on, but threatening to wrap at any moment before the council starts takin' it to the streets.

The reason it's taking a while: Dwaine Caraway is still plenty pissed at the plan to shutter two pools in his district. He ate up quite a bit of his time letting Dyer have it over those fliers Dyer says were sent to Dallas ISD students. Caraway said he didn't believe Dyer, who did acknowledge it was a "mistake" not to make some of them Spanish-language. Caraway's point being: "I do not believe we've done every single thing we could do with our current system to make it work, and I refuse to [believe] a new system ... will eventually stand on its own without us rolling up our sleeves."

Dyer spoke after a brief intro by Park Board member Larry Jones, Ann Margolin's appointee and the head of the task force put together by then-Park Board president Mike Rawlings in May 2010 to begin studying the existing aquatic system and see how it can be improved. Said Jones, now-Mayor Mike wanted Park and Rec to make sure, during these belt-tightening times, that the city's "spending money where we need to and understand the costs of operating pools."

Far as Park and Rec's concerned, as we noted over the weekend, the present system is antiquated and inefficient; money's circling the drain, as evidenced by the half-a-mil it cost to start up the pools this summer and the decision to close five next summer. "Because our pools are older than you might expect," Jones said, "all of them need a significant amount of work." And: They're all out of compliance with ADA requirements, "which means a considerable amount of work needs to be done" just to bring them up to code. Might as well start over.

And so the task force looked at the present system, then went to Lewisville and Saginaw and looked at their aquatic centers and said: That, let's do that. As Dyer said, our existing aquatic system consists of 17 bodies of water, nothing else. "It's dumb and dumber," he said, "not much to 'em." Meanwhile the suburbs are filling their aquatic centers; so too is Bahama Beach, the city-owned center where Carolyn Davis said she had to wait an hour just to even get in the pool.

The council seems to be up for it. But: How will the city find the $40 mil, give or take, needed for the community and metropolitan family aquatic centers. Linda Koop said: Pay for them with bond money, then sell Elgin B. Robertson and put those proceeds into a trust to pay for maintenance and operations. Council seems to be up for it.

Scott Griggs, who suggested the new centers go near DISD campuses, also called for "daylighting the springs," which is why you see him holding up a copy of Springs of Texas, Volume 1 in the photo above. Said the rookie council member, you don't need to pay to maintain springs. And if it's good enough for Austin ...

Jerry Allen -- who had an odd flashback during his time at the mic, as evidenced by his "Chicken on the high board!" outburst -- liked that. Very much. So too did Sandy Greyson.

Angela Hunt has a bit of a problem with the pricing proposal: $2 admission for kids at the smaller centers, $8 to $10 at the larger metro centers. She also asked: How much will it cost to demo the existing pools. Said Dyer, $25,000 each, more or less. Alas, no talk of skate parks, so sorry.

Rawlings wanted to know how the city decides which pools to close. Because he thought the process was "fair" and maybe based on pools "with mechanical issues." He said that, sure, everyone's excited about what's being proposed, but we need a full-blown aquatic plan -- something dealing with real "aquatic-ness." Sure. That, let's do that.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky