List of closed Tulsa swimming pools grows, but Mayor hopes to shrink list

Wednesday, April 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

More of Tulsa’s city pools could be closing this summer. Tulsa originally targeted five pools to shut down because of budget constraints; all five were on Tulsa’s north side. The new list includes eight more in other areas of the city.

Tulsa city leaders say they picked only smaller pools with the least attendance, or those in need of the most repairs. The pool at Henthorne Park is among them. News on Six reporter Emory Bryan the Henthorne Park pool is now on the list of ones that might never open this year - because of planned cuts in the parks department.

The mayor says the city will cut $300,000 from the budget for swimming pools - and the only way to make sure all the pools open - is if donations make up the difference. The pool at Ben Hill Recreation center is dry, and it might stay that way this summer. It's one of the original five cut from the budget. Mayor Bill LaFortune, "The original five were targeted based on usage and number of children in the service area, but what that left out was the importance of these pools to the community."

But a new list includes 13 pools - the original five and eight more - a $300,000 savings for the city - and a good share of the $748,000 the city spent on pools last year. 89 thousand children swam in those pools - making the cost to the city just over $7 per swimmer.

When the parks department first considered closing north side pools - opponents claimed budgetary racism. Though the cuts are still intact - the new mayor has a plan to make up the shortfall. "We put our heads together in a public private partnership and decided we would raise the money to keep all 13 pools open."

Mayor LaFortune says corporate donors wanted to make sure the north side pools stayed open. The city has enough money to repair the pools - and LaFortune hopes to raise the money to run them by the start of the season in late May.

The mayor is calling the fund drive "Pools for Kids" and is asking people to call the parks department to make donations - the number is 596-2112.

Already - local companies have kicked in $60,000, but the mayor says the city needs $300,000 to open all the pools. He says he'll make north Tulsa pools the priority - which moves pools in other areas of town to the top of the list, unless some private money comes in.