Like the end of Prohibition, the North Side is going from dry to wet virtually overnight.
The opening of the long-anticipated Webber Park natural filtration pool is scheduled for July 24, while park officials are hoping to reopen the deteriorating water park at North Commons Park by the following day.
But the North Commons decision posed a tough choice for the Park Board this week -- pay more than it wants to the YMCA of Greater Minneapolis to staff the pool or strip other swimming areas of Park Board employees to run the facility.
The board voted 7-1 to swallow hard and pay the Y $90,000 to run the pool for six weeks after the two sides were unable to agree on a new long-term pool management contract.
Commissioner John Erwin cast the lone vote against that course, arguing that the price was disproportionate to the $110,000 that the Y would have gotten for a full-length season. "It feels like extortion," said Commissioner Anita Tabb, who nevertheless voted for the deal. The YMCA organization did not make anyone available to respond to concerns raised by park commissioners..
Nick Williams, assistant superintendent for recreation, told the board a 2007 contract with the Y has been extended twice, and expired in May. Negotiations on a new deal began in February. Williams told the board that the previous $110,000 per summer payment to the Y represents almost $1,200 per day to cover staff and other operational expenses. By that reasoning, Erwin argued, the Park Board should pay half or less the $90,000 Y asking price for six weeks.
But other commissioners worried about taking lifeguards away from the Lupient water park in northeast Minneapolis and the eight Park Board beaches staffed by lifeguards, especially with the Webber pool opening.
North Commons typically opens to swimmers shortly after school is out in June. But in getting it ready this year, workers found leaks that developed since last season. When they were fixed and pipes repressurized, new leaks developed. So the pool has been open only July 3 and 4.
More recently, a decision was made to replace drain grates on the pool edge because their vinyl coating was deteriorating, leaving swimmers potentially vulnerable to shards of fiberglass. That will cost $20,000, part of an estimated $300,000 spent on repairing the 18-year-old pool.
Some commissioners want staffing the pool shifted to the Park Board as part of next year's budget.