By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — Following pressure from a political action campaign more than 3,500 members strong, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. last week reversed course on a plan to close six neighborhood pools.
The announcement came at the outset of a public meeting April 9 that was scheduled to discuss the closures and to put them in the context of the city’s overall precarious finances.
To cheers and applause, O’Reilly said the pools targeted for closure – Ten Eyck, Whitmore Bolles, Hemlock, Crowley, Summer-Stephens and Lapeer – would remain open for this year.
He said officials soon would have had to make a decision one way or the other in order for the pools to be ready for the Memorial Day opening date, and that after discussing it with the City Council, he decided it would not be the right decision to close them this year.
But he remained steadfast that the day could come soon — as soon as next year — when the pools no longer will be an option.
“None of us have ever wanted to close the pools,” O’Reilly said. “But I don’t want anyone to have false hope on the fact that (city finances) are as serious as they could be.”
The driving issue behind the proposed closures was an estimated $3.6 million in repair and refurbishment costs for the aging facilities at a time when the city is looking to close an estimated $20 million budget gap for the coming fiscal year alone.
City officials said the largest component of the repair costs is the replacement of the pool hulls, or liners, which envelop the pools’ concrete surface. But other problems, such as cracking concrete, outdated plumbing and some mechanical items also need fixing. In total it would cost approximately $550,000 to complete the fixes on each pool, according to an estimate from a private contractor.
But the lingering uncertainties were not the focus of the evening for the crowd of about 200 in attendance. Instead, it was that their massive awareness/action campaign had proven fruitful, and that there would be at least one more summer in Dearborn with neighborhood pools.
And perhaps no one is more responsible for that than 15-year-old Danielle Misovich.
She recently completed lifeguard certification and is a self-proclaimed “pool rat” and was the organizer of a Facebook group that came to be central command for the Save Our Pools campaign. In less than a month, the group attracted more than 3,500 members and served as the conduit for in-person meetings among the group; strategies to increase pool funding; and, most apparently, as a sounding board for nostalgic memories of past summer days spent at the pools.
After the meeting and her own speech to the audience, Misovich said she was thrilled the pools were staying open.
“I grew up with the pools, and to hear that they were closing just really upset me,” she said. “This is good news tonight.”