OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Supporters of the city’s swimming pool made a big splash in front of the Common Council Thursday night.
In an attempt to save money in next year’s budget, councilors proposed closing the pool.
More than 90 people attended a town hall meeting Thursday at the McCrobie Building on Lake Street. Included in that number were dozens of young children, many carrying signs that read: “Don’t be a fool Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Don’t close our Pool,” “Swim Lessons Save Lives” and “Don’t Make Me Swim In The River” among other slogans.
“I love seeing the kids here,” said Councilor Sue Sweet (R-Third Ward) the facilitator of the meeting. “You’re trying to help people in charge of this city, who were elected by these people, by letting them know how you feel and that’s a good thing.”
A few people voiced opposition to the city’s plan to triple the sewer fee. However, the majority of the two and a half hour forum was spent on the pool situation.
Diane Zeller said she stopped at the farmers’ market before coming to the meeting. In that short time at the market, she collected more than 150 signatures of people who support keeping the pool.
Even those who no longer use it still want to maintain it for other children, she added.
Christina Chamberlain’s two children took swimming lessons at the Gallagher Pool and continue to swim there nearly every day, she said.
She asked the councilors if they had received a statement itemizing the financial summary of the pool up to Aug. 17. The total was $56,631, Councilor Bill Sharkey (R-Sixth Ward) noted.
“Did anyone question why there was a full-time maintenance position coming out of a budget that operates at a maximum of three months?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” Sweet responded.
“Therefore, shouldn’t at least two-thirds of that person’s (or persons’) salary be taken out of the pool budget and be billed to another department?” Chamberlain asked.
It should, the councilors agreed.
Didn’t the council balance the budget, without closing Gallagher Pool when it approved tripling the sewer fees, Chamberlain asked.
“Yes, we did,” replied Councilor Sharkey.
After her comments to the council, Chamberlain polled the members and each one indicated they were in favor of keeping the pool open.
The council is expected to vote on the tentative spending plan at its Monday meeting.
Beth Nutting also spoke in support of the pool. And, she praised the councilors for holding the town hall meeting Ã¢â‚¬â€œ something, she said, they should do every month.
All of the councilors attended the meeting. The mayor, however, did not.
“Mayor (Randy) Bateman, where are you?” she asked rhetorically.
“This is our community. These people work for us. The mayor works for us. Why can’t we all get on the same page,” she continued. “Talk to your councilors. They can’t help you unless they know what your concerns are.”
“I hope this is the beginning of change,” Sweet said. “That is why we are here.”
Dominick Pike has been supervisor at the city pool for 23 years.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their support in coming out tonight,” he said.
Attendance is down at the pool; but, that might be due to a stricter, ‘No Tolerance’ discipline policy, he instituted a few years ago, he said.
“If numbers are down, I’ll take the blame. But I think we made the pool safer and a better place for the families of Oswego,” he added.
He said he’s willing to work with the council to make the pool a better utilized to generate more revenue.
“It’s important that we keep this place open,” he said.
“When we sit down to do the budget, we don’t see faces. We try to remind ourselves that this is what it’s about,” Sweet said indicating the huge crowd at the meeting.
It’s about time government was opened up to the people, she said.
“The feedback we got tonight was phenomenal,” Sweet said. “People just want to be heard. They’re never given a chance, never.Ã‚Â This was something we needed so much because we’re a community of friends and families. This is as difficult for (councilors) to sit here and examine the condition of our inheritance than it is to try and fix it. It’s going to be long-term. We’re going to have to approach it in a proactive manner with the help of the taxpayers with an open understanding of all the challenges. I’m excited.”