By. Justin West, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern
Chalk the Monday April 6th meeting of the Charlottesville City Council up as a victory for those fighting for the preservation of McIntire Park. Despite not technically appearing on the agenda, the issue once again dominated conversation, this time using the McIntire Park Wading Pool as a proxy. The pool does not comply with new federal legislation, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, and would therefore require outfitting with what city staff estimates as $15,000- 20,000 in anti-entrapment devices if it is to remain open.
City staff cited the cost of the undertaking, along with the city’s recent trend of consolidating their pools by closing older facilities and opening the Onesty Family Aquatic Center and Smith Aquatic Center within the next year as two of the three reasons for closing the pool. Both points stand alone from staffs final concern that the pools location in McIntire Park is too close to and potentially adversely affected by City Councils proposed alternative for the Route 250-Meadowcreek Parkway interchange but did not receive as much discussion or attention as the polarizing road.
The public hearing was dominated by citizens speaking warmly of the charm and utility of the old facility and harshly towards the controversial parkway. One resident, Pat Napoleon, joined the chorus of citizens arguing against the parkway via the pool issue by claiming that, “maybe it is those [advocating the parkway] who think it will be easier to build the objectionable road if the infrastructure of the park is taken away first.” These arguments struck a cord with Mayor and strong supporter of saving the park, Dave Norris, who claimed that the public is in denial of the negative consequences of the Meadowcreek Parkway and that the loss of the wading pool would be among them. However, this line of conversation frustrated Councilor David Brown, who called it a “shame” that the issue became a tirade against the parkway as it overshadowed the issue at hand.
From the outset, the pool never really seemed in danger as each Council member spoke of the facility as an asset to the community that should be preserved despite the current economy and the cost of compliance with the new federal law. Councilor Julian Taliaferro called the pool “a Charlottesville tradition” while Councilor Brown argued that, in the wake of the closing of the Forrest Hills wading pool, “maybe we need to keep a wading pool somewhere.” Adding that if there are private donors to pay for the improvements, as city staff suggested there were, “we should take them up on that offer.”
Perhaps the most memorable commentary coming from the hearing came from a self-described “old warhorse”, citizen Virginia Germino, who said in relation to the pool and the park that it seems as though “everything that’s simple and ordinary is doomed.” However on this day, the simple, ordinary pool received a 5-0 vote to be saved and improved upon from City Council.
Other Items on the Agenda
In addition to the wading pool discussion there were continuing FY 2010 budget discussions which were all moved to a later date, a report on the design for the new federally funded, $9 million Belmont Bridge, and considerable discussion on a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study for the dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The RFP was prepared by Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) and enumerated what council wants from prospective firms who will compete for the contract to perform the pre-dredge survey. The RPF asks for a bathometric survey, which studies the contour of sediment settling, a volume analysis of how much of the original capacity of the reservoir will be gained back, detailed assessments of the processing and disposal of the sediment, and most importantly the identification of prospective disposal sites for the dredged sediment. This final component, the most important factor in dictating the price tag of dredging, was the source of most of the discussion on the topic. Mayor Norris shared concern over the control and access the city would have over the disposal site and argued that the RPF should ask for the site to be procured or somehow guaranteed to the city rather than just being identified. That debate and dialogue over wording in the RPF yielded little change and the RPF was approved nearly unchanged by a 5-0 vote.