Citizen participation vital to pool decisions in Pasco

Pasco city officials would be wise to actively pursue as much community feedback as possible before they decide whether to permanently close two aging and broken city pools.

The Kurtzman and Richardson pools were built in the 1960s and have been kept open by a patchwork of efforts over the years. Now, another quick fix just isn't going to be enough, city officials said. In fact, the pump at the Richardson Pool failed this summer, so it's already shut down for the season.

The pools need to be rebuilt, but it would cost $1 million to $4 million each, so it's understandable the Pasco City Council wants to make sure the pools are worth the money.

One way to find that out is to discover what Pasco citizens want, then go from there. The main pool in Pasco is Memorial Pool, which is larger, popular and centrally located.

However, it is also the most expensive pool for families. Kurtzman and Richardson pools charge children $1 for open swim, while Memorial Pool charges $3. For adults, the open swim is $2 at the older pools and $5 at Memorial.

That price difference adds up, especially for families with two, three or more children.

Then there is the issue of swimming lessons. This is a vital skill that all children need. Currently at Memorial Pool, swimming lessons are offered only in the morning, while the Kurtzman and Richardson (when it was operating) pools offer beginning swim lessons in the morning as well as from 5 to 7 p.m.

For families where both parents work, the later time slot may be the only one that works for their schedule. The evening classes drew about 300 kids this summer. That indicates significant demand that will be tough to meet with a single public pool.

Pasco officials need to research how popular those evening lessons are and try to figure out how to accommodate that need if Memorial is the only pool left in the city.

The Tri-Cities is hot in the summer and on many days there is no way children can stay outside and play unless they are cooling off in the water. The two, older neighborhood pools provide a safe place for children to be active in the summer months and that's important.

While attendance is much higher at Memorial Pool, taking away the less expensive pool options may be tough on lower income families, who may have additional transportation costs on top of the higher admission fees. But then again, it may be impossible to replace the Kurtzman or Richardson pools without increasing entrance fees later.

Also, the idea of turning either one or both of the pools into a spray park might turn out to be the most cost-effective approach that would still give children a place to get wet.

There's a lot to think about.

Getting citizens involved in the discussion would help. At least that way, the Pasco City Council will have an idea of what the community wants.

Cutting away two pools that have been around for 40 years and that provide a less expensive alternative to the more popular Memorial Pool should not be taken lightly.