OLEAN — Olean Common Council members agreed to a compromise plan Tuesday to build a splash park at War Veterans Park and renovate the existing swimming pool to make it more attractive.
No vote was taken, but a consensus on the council began to develop after a presentation by Public Works Director Robert Thompson.
The last time the splash park and pool were discussed by council members in May, a $1.3 million plan to fill in the pool and build the splash park seemed to have enough votes to overcome a veto by Mayor Bill Aiello, who wasn’t happy with losing the city pool.
Upgrading the pool and building the splash park could cost up to $1.9 million or more.
Some council members like Sonya McFall, D-Ward 4, wondered how long the pool’s more than 40-year-old piping infrastructure would last. Others thought it would be an eyesore next to the new splash park.
Council President John Crawford, D-Ward 5, said the thought was to upgrade the pool so there is more of a resort-type atmosphere by upgrading the concrete surface and adding cabanas.
The pool is 40 years old, said Councilman Jason Panus, R-Ward 2. “When do you replace it and update it?”
Councilman Vernon Robinson Jr., I-Ward 6, said he saw a potential for revenue for the city instead of losing $30,000 to $50,000 a year. On some of the hottest days of the summer last year, Robinson said he drove by and no one was using the pool.
“Let’s keep the pool,” Robinson said. “I am in favor of keeping the pool if we are going to make it better than it is now.”
Crawford, who cited higher than anticipated demolition costs for the pool in taking the second look, noted the earlier consensus was to eliminate the pool. After two years of being closed due to COVID-19, swimming was limited last summer by the lack of qualified lifeguards.
Crawford said construction on the splash park could begin this summer even while the pool remains open. After the pool closes at the end of summer, repairs to the concrete deck could be addressed. This gives the city the option of more pool renovations in the future, he added.
Councilman Jennifer Forney, R-Ward 3, suggested the city contact area schools with swimming pools and try to arrange for the training of enough lifeguards for next summer to keep the city pool open.
At the end of the meeting, Aiello thanked the council members for coming to the compromise to keep the city pool open.
This is a win-win,” the mayor added.