East Austin residents upset city is closing 2 swimming pools for summer
AUSTIN, Texas - Kelsey Small and Jordan Schwartz live in East Austin. They told us as they were walking up they had just been discussing when the Metz Neighborhood Pool might open up.
We had to deliver the bad news: it won't be.
"Maybe we should stop building so many condos and maybe put some money into like...public works," Small said.
Austin Parks and Rec Assistant Director Kimberly McNeeley says they're cutting back on city pool hours, setting aside special days for maintenance and they're closing both the Metz Pool and the Mabel Davis Pool for the summer.
"Combined, those 2 swimming pools leak approximately 7 million gallons of water," McNeeley said.
Parks and Rec says they need $41 million to get the city's 40 swimming pools into good shape.
McNeeley says they'll be looking for feedback from the community on what to do about Metz and Mabel Davis in the future.
"Is a square swimming pool enough? Or are they looking for something a little more interactive? How can we best serve the communities and the families," she said.
The two pools the city is closing this year both happen to be in East Austin. They say the fact that District 3 already has more city pools than any other part of Austin helped them make the very difficult decision.
We found District 3 City Council member Sabino "Pio" Renteria at the Metz Pool trying to get to the bottom of the issue. He says at first he wondered why there was still water in the pool if it was leaking so much.
"I did some research and found out basically because the age of the pool and the way it was constructed that they have to keep water in it. And so I'm going 'Well if you're going to keep water in it, you know why not open it up?'" Renteria asked.
He says he's doing everything he can to make sure the pool does open.
"I need to find out more about it because I think that we have done some bad planning. I know that parks are always the first one to get hit when there's a budget crunch, you know I'm not blaming or attacking anyone because I know how the city operates," he said.
East Austin activist Gavino Fernandez says the timing of the Metz closure -- just 2 months away from summer -- is an insult.
"It's a safe haven for us. It's a preventative tool for the summer. You shut this down, where are our kids going to go?" Fernandez said. "For the City of Austin to have an over $2 billion budget...and to pick on something like this in a poor community...shows 'is this another symptom of gentrification?'"
Like last year, Parks and Rec says they're having a hard time hiring enough lifeguards for the city's pools.
If they can't hire enough, their schedule will have to change even more.
If anyone's interested, they say there's a hiring day on West 28th and a half street on Wednesday.