PORTSMOUTH- Uncertainty surrounds summer plans and activities for area families who do not know what to expect in the next stage of the coronavirus pandemic.
In what will be its 55th year since opening that same feeling is shared by the city’s McKinley Pool who is in need of lifeguards and facility upgrades to ensure a successful reopening and season.
2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon recently brought the matter to attention during last month’s strategic planning session, where a wide range of city plans, and desires were discussed.
“It really needs a lot of work,” she said during the Feb. 20 session, detailing how she and 4th Ward Councilwoman Lyvette Mosley visited the pool and scoped out the situation.
In Gordon’s assessment, aging concrete and equipment are indicative of another area for the city to focus attention. Infrastructure needs, whether that be roads and sidewalk work or water systems, are also on Portsmouth’s radar.
Further assessment will take place next week when PSS Contractors LLC out of Cincinnati visits town and will study the structure and surrounding concrete. Some upgrades, such as stall doors, can be done this year but others will have to wait a few years to get started.
“When I went and looked at the pool, I was just really amazed at how much work the whole structure needed,” Gordon said in a Monday phone interview, delays for certain works due to needed approvals from the state.
Last summer, questions swirled around whether or not the pool would open at all due to a scarcity of lifeguards. Needing at least two to operate, McKinley closed temporarily July 17 following staff illness and for the season July 24 when remaining staff left in preparation for the school year.
Gordon said conversations have been ongoing with Gerald Cadogan, Shawnee State University swimming coach, on building a pipeline of sorts between the city and university for increased lifeguard staff. With a larger staff, she would like to see swim lessons be taught at the pool in the hours before opening.
“We have the need for lifeguards and just a whole lot of general needs surrounding the pool,” she said, where training costs could be reimbursed by the city.
The community has rallied behind the pool in years past, raising $5,280 in a 2017 GoFundMe campaign organized by the North End Project. Those funds were used to repair restrooms and adding a fresh coat of paint to the pool’s base and sides.
Volunteers also helped in beautifying the Findlay Street location, who pulled weeds, raked leaves and designed a graffiti-inspired mural.
“They were all excited about the pool’s reopening, and the effort being put forth,” Nick Sherman of Nick Sherman Design and Creative Minds are Rare told The Portsmouth Daily Times in a prior article. “When possible, I’m grateful to use the talents I’ve been created with to serve and provide a visible difference in Portsmouth.”
More recently, 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne proposed increased monthly rental rates at the riverfront campground spots. While in response to the presence of the confederate flag, Dunne said the larger revenues would go toward the pool and racial equality groups.
“As long as there are Confederate flags and other hate symbols there, we just tax their hate,” he said during a Dec. 21 council session, the matter since resolved. “We could get sued in court, or we could just make money off them if they’re so dedicated to it and we could keep raising it each year.”
How much money and how will it be raised is unknown at this point, but Gordon would like the city to take earlier and decisive action so the pool can reopen on time.
“I would like to be able to do it without using a GoFundMe,” she said, where the pool’s status in the national historical registry could lead to more grant opportunities. “It’s a city pool, it should be able to be financed like other city projects.”
Above all, Gordon said taking on this work is out of necessity and a responsibility she feels as a city official.
“I see the pool as an asset to the community,” she said, a chance for employment for high school and college students and a fun activity for the area youth. “I would really like to pay attention to it earlier rather than later so that the kids can enjoy the pool when it gets hot and not have to wait.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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