First, let’s get all the disclaimers out of the way:
Paul Clancy is the councilor I’d most like to sit down and have a Murphy’s Stout with while discussing Stanley Kunitz’s poetry. I don’t always agree with him, but I like the guy. (And he always answers my emails!)
As we’ve previously established, Joff Smith looks exactly like my brother.
And I have an abiding fondness for Robert C. Antonelli, Jr.
So this may not be the most unbiased meeting report you’ve ever read.
The meeting was about youth employment opportunities for the summer, and summer aquatics. I’ll write a bit about the latter now, and the former later tonight.
Construction and renovation of aquatic facilities
The goal had been for the pool at Crompton Park to be completed by July 1. According to Antonelli, “we knew initially that we were pushing the envelope [with the aggressive schedule]. We may be a little late, but we’re going to open this pool.” There have been a number of issues with the Crompton Park pool, including abatement of PCB, PCB caulking, and asbestos, so at this point, it’s about two weeks behind schedule.
Antonelli feels that Fontaine Brothers will do whatever it takes to get Crompton Park finished as quickly as possible. Regarding the appearance of the pool, when the facility is ready for public use, “the only area that you will see something that would look incomplete would be the front area that has the playground. … The interior portion of the facility will be complete.” (They’re not going to have grassy areas in there because of maintenance and larger equipment. There will be grass seeding on the front part.) “The pool itself will be operational.”
Regarding the state-owned pool at Bennett Field, they are “slightly behind [schedule], but they [the state] felt they could make up the time.” They’ve also had abatement issues, but they’ve benefitted from their experience with Vernon Hill.
Regarding the Greenwood spray facility, Councilor Clancy said that the commission voted an additional 75,000 today so that spray park water can be recycled, which would make this a $575,000 facility. The restrooms will be refurbished (unlike at Crompton, which is a complete demolition and rebuild). When the spray park is ready, it will accommodate over 200 people at a time.
According to Antonelli, “We’re looking for [the Greenwood spray park to open in] late summer. The window of use [for such a facility] is much larger [than a traditional pool].” (Mid-May to Late September) “In the end, it’s less staffing [than a traditional pool], and it’s operational for a much longer period of time than eight weeks in the middle of the summer because that’s when we have lifeguards.”
Antonelli anticipates a large draw at the Crompton Pool when it opens. There are some state regulations that we would need to follow.
“The baseline availability of that pool is 220 participants.” There would need to be 1 lifeguard/25 participants, and Antonelli anticipates that we will fund that pool for the entire summer [July 1-August 15]. The 220 number is for people who are in the pool, so there could be more people on the deck area around the pool. “Usually when you look at how that pool operates, 25% of the people in the pool complex aren’t in the pool.”
“There will be no police” assigned to the pool. The head lifeguard will manage the eight other lifeguards as well as control the other horseplay that can happen behind a lifeguard’s back. There will be maintenance staff there as well, and the entrance will be staffed with someone to inform the public about the pool rules & regulations, including education about babies and the need for swim diapers. “We’re going to try to control that and make sure we get to people beforehand.” (There was mention of fecal matter in pools at this point.)
Wheels to Water and summer aquatics
If Crompton is not completed on time, the students in Green Island will still have a place to go.
“We want to give those students an opportunity to go to other places as well,” said Antonelli. “The program we’re looking at this summer is an excellent one. We’re going to be including some recreation sites as well.” There are plans to hold summer programs for MCAS training and non-aquatic recreational program as well.
Regarding Wheels to Water, Antonelli said that the “best part about the program is that it’s a structured program. …It was a well-controlled model, and worked well with our community partners. We got a much better product for the money we put out there. 750 students received swim lessons.” He emphasized that the structure of the swim program was one of the main reasons so many children could have regular instruction in swimming. [Editorializing for a moment: I think learning to swim is one of the most important things someone can do, so this is totally awesome.]
Regarding pools and beaches, they’re scheduled to be open from July 1 to August 15. “We expect all four beaches [to be open]; we’re currently working with the YMCA on the Shore Park facility”; the YMCA will pay for lifeguards at Shore Park.
What about the other pools?
After the Crompton Park and Greenwood are complete, DPW&P will provide a breakdown cost analysis of how much it cost to demolish/abate each, so that they can estimate how much it will cost to demolish/abate the other seven pool facilities and re-sod to put back into park use. Clancy specifically wanted an estimate of the annual cost over a 20 year period, because it would be a capital expenditure. (Just as a note, they are operating under the assumption that the other seven pools will need PCB and/or asbestos abatement.)
According to Antonelli, the draining/pumping of the non-operational pools will begin in the next couple of weeks. Some of them, because of cracks, draw water anyway; they will need to be drained on a regular basis. Many of the drains in the pools are blocked or broken, so they need to have manual intervention to be drained. When the pools were operational, some of them were losing 1/3 of their water a day. [Oh, gracious!]
They don’t use pool covers. “We’ve tried covers in the past,” said Antonelli. “In our experience with covers, they were slashed, the cords were ripped up. … We used to do that, but the function of keeping them on…was more than” having someone come out and pump.
Regarding safety at the non-operational pools, they continue to review all pool facilities for fence breaks and other breaches. As the staff are taking care of facilities, they take a look at the pools to make sure there hasn’t been any unwanted access.
Eddy requested that DPW&P look into the feasibility of constructing a skateboard park in the West Side, specifically in Logan Field above the baseball diamond; anywhere on the hill that faces Mill Street, accessing via Airport Drive.
Smith requested cost analysis/feasibility of handball court in GBV.
Summer Employment for Youth
Jesse Edwards from the Youth Opportunities Office (YOO) discussed the summer situation.
I was taking notes while trying to get a wifi connection without success, so here’s what I got:
In 2009 — $2.5 million in funding thanks to stimulus, $1.7m funding toward youth wages. 1,770 jobs.
2010 – because of funding cuts, $700,000 in funding for youth jobs. They are expecting 1/3 of the funding from last year through YouthWorks. $1.9mil last year in stimulus; $400,000 left over for this year. Thinking they’ll hit 1,000 jobs this summer.
Worcester Community Action Council has applied for and received funding for many of the youth programs. YOO worked with them to try to leverage as many $$ as possible.
To be eligible for the jobs: income and eligibility requirements. Federal government (Workforce Investment Act funding) comes with more strings for youth eligibility funding. YouthWorks funding from the state = free or reduced lunch through the schools.
YOO works with Colleges of Worcester Consortium to provide free summer camp scholarships; they work with Gang Unit to find out which youth might be eligible. Work to provide opportunities for after school, which continues to be a challenge for the office. More opportunities available in the summer.
(Those are what my notes look like…there was a big attachment to the agenda with many more details for those who are interested.)