City to open three Fresno public pools this week

June 19, 2011 

Fresno officials have decided to open three pools on the south side of the city this week after listening to City Council budget discussions on Monday, a city official said.

Worried about a looming $18.5 million budget gap, officials had left the pools closed this month, even though they had the money to open them, city spokesman Michael Lukens said.

Officials wanted to see if the City Council would approve money to keep them open past July 1, when the new budget year begins.

The pools are at Frank H. Ball Neighborhood Center, Mosqueda Center and Mary Ella Brown Center. Only the large pool at Airways in east-central Fresno and a smaller pool at Romain Playground in central Fresno have been open to swimmers.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin included money to operate all the pools in her proposed budget. And, after hearing council budget discussions Monday, "it appears there's not much appetite to close those pools," Lukens said.

Lukens said the Mosqueda pool, which already has water in it, should reopen by 1 p.m. today once city staff cleans and restocks the bathrooms and ensures the pool equipment works.

The pools at Frank H. Ball and Mary Ella Brown are dry and will need to be cleaned and refilled, he said. If the equipment is in working order, those pools could reopen by 1 p.m. Thursday.

The pools will be open seven days a week 1 to 5 p.m. Cost is $1 for children and $2 for adults.


Sunday: The city of Fresno isn't opening three pools on the south side of town this summer.

Because of budget deficits, the city won't open the pools at Frank H. Ball Neighborhood Center, Mosqueda Center and Mary Ella Brown Center. Only the large pool at Airways in east-central Fresno and a smaller pool at Romain Playground in central Fresno are open to swimmers.

Six-year-old Serenity Jones wasn't happy about the "POOL CLOSED" sign at Frank H. Ball: "I'm mad, I'm sad, and I wanna go swimming," she said bluntly.

For parents like Desire Travis, the neighborhood swimming pool at Frank H. Ball was an easy option to cool down her boys.

"My sons had swimming lessons here last year," Travis said. "Why should I take them to all the way to Airways when this pool is five minutes away?"

Next week, she said, many neighborhood kids will be involved in the city's Fresno United Neighborhoods (FUN) camp but won't have a pool to cool off in -- which was one of the city's selling points for the camp.

And there is no guarantee the city will be able to keep Romain's learner pool open. It's funded by a grant, but won't stay open beyond this month unless the new budget provides enough money to keep programs operating at the playground.

City parks spokeswoman Heather Heinks said that despite opening fewer pools, the city will be able to accommodate more swimmers with creative scheduling -- adding Saturday swim lessons, for example.

Fresnans will have a few new public pool options. Fresno Unified opened Fresno High School's pool to summer swimming for the first time, district spokeswoman Susan Bedi said.

Clovis Unified is opening the pools at Buchanan, Clovis West and Clovis high schools beginning this week for open swimming from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. each Tuesday through Thursday.

And the aquatics complex at Central High East campus is open through Aug. 6. It includes slides and other features.

Parks employee Amina Flores said the Airways pool hasn't yet been flooded with recreational and student swimmers.

That could change as the summer continues, Heinks said.

"We're barely on the brink of 100-degree weather," she said. "Once we get there, people will begin to ask where they can cool off."

The reporters can be reached at atavlian@fresnobee.com, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6330.

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