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Politics

Historic Cuscaden Pool denied funds for renovation

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Published:   |   Updated: December 6, 2013 at 07:38 AM

TAMPA — Tampa City Council appears ready to throw in the towel on the city’s historic Cuscaden Pool.

Councilman Frank Reddick asked city officials on Thursday to review feasibility of demolishing the basin of the 78-year-old above-ground pool and replace it with a modern Olympic-sized pool within the walls of the historic structure.

Reddick made his request based on a report by land-use consultant Steve Michelini, who council members asked to lead a inspection of the aging structure.

The experts that viewed it looked at the pool deck, Michelini said.

“They were indicating that for $1.5 million you’re going to repair it, but you better be budgeting $300,000 every couple years,” Michelini said. “It’s in a sad condition. I hate to see the city spending money to repair something that is beyond its life expectancy.”

Reddick said after the council meeting that the neighborhood supported the demolition.

That was news to Kim Headland, a trustee of the V.M. Ybor Neighborhood Association, which has urged the city for years to put the pool back in service.

“Based on last night’s neighborhood meeting, I don’t think anyone’s in favor of demolishing the pool,” Headland said.

She called the demolition idea “ridiculously disappointing.”

The pool was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. It has been plagued by structural and mechanical problems over the last decade.

It underwent nearly $3 million in federally funded renovations that ended in 2005. By 2009, the pool was leaking 450,000 gallons of water a year, and then-Mayor Pam Iorio shut it down.

Michelini said draining the pool has allowed the struts supporting it to settle. Refilling it is likely to cause them to shift, he said.

“You’re going to crack again,” Michelini said.

Last month, council members demanded something be done to preserve the pool, which has been closed and empty since 2009. Council members wanted Mayor Bob Buckhorn to move money around in the city budget to find $1.5 million for stabilizing the structure.

Dennis Rogero, Buckhorn’s chief of staff and former budget director, came to Old City Hall on Thursday afternoon with the administration’s answer: No.

Putting money into Cuscaden means taking it from another city park, Rogero said. Buckhorn has plans this year to renovate Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and Perry Harvey Sr. Park, both downtown.

“There is nothing that we are comfortable coming forward to you today that we’re comfortable appropriating,” he said.

Put Cuscaden’s repairs on the list for the 2015 budget, he suggested.

If things are bad now, they’ll be even worse then, Reddick said.

Reddick showed photos from inside the pool building showing cracks in the pool surface, peeling paint and mold on the walls.

“Each year we prolong this, the conditions at that facility gets worse,” Reddick said. “You’ve got one or two choices: you’re either going to repair the thing, or you’re going to tear the damned thing down.”

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7871

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