At noon on Tuesday, July 24, a group of Cranston residents and City Council members delivered a 1,940 signature petition supporting the repair of Budlong Pool and asking that it maintain its current …
At noon on Tuesday, July 24, a group of Cranston residents and City Council members delivered a 1,940 signature petition supporting the repair of Budlong Pool and asking that it maintain its current size to City Hall and to Mayor Ken Hopkins, who was absent from the office while away on vacation.
Supporting the petition and campaign to preserve the size of the pool, upgrade it and bathhouse to ADA compliance at the press conference, were City Council members Aniece Germain, Robert Ferri and John Donegan, as well as the new grassroots organization Cranston Forward.
“Cranstonians have spoken: we need an accessible, affordable place to cool off, exercise, and teach our kids to swim during our increasingly hot summers,” said Cranston Forward Chair Karen Rosenberg. “We are willing to work with the Mayor to identify a cost-effective solution to save this beloved and iconic community pool at as close as possible to its original size, so that Cranston residents of all ages and abilities can continue to enjoy it as they have for decades.”
Since being closed, Mayor Hopkins proposed a multi-phase plan to renovate and rebuild the pool at about one third its current size and to use the extra space to add a splash pad and other recreational facilities to create a more versatile recreational facility.
However, many residents from across the city have protested demanding that the pool be repaired and brought up to compliance without changing its dimensions more than necessary. The group demanded to be heard citing the Federal Hill Architecture Group Feasibility Study of the pool completed in April of 2022 and ordered by the administration. The study found the pool is desperately in need of repair due to cracks in its foundation and out of ADA compliance. However, despite cracks causing a loss of water that required constant filling before it was closed, the study did clearly state that Budlong could be repaired and brought up to compliance without sacrificing its standing as one of the three largest pools in the country.
The report also stated that prior to its closing the pool had undergone many “Band-Aid” repairs to keep it open and serving the public before being forced to close for COVID safety. These temporary fixes are something the Mayor wishes to avoid by completely remodeling the pool.
“I think you all agree with me,” said Councilman Ferri to the assembled audience supporting the repair of the pool as it is. “No one wants to put a Band-Aid on that pool. We want to fix it and renovate it and make it usable. Not a Band-Aid. I know that term has been used many times at Council meetings and ‘putting a Band-Aid on it,’ but no one wants a Band-Aid. We want it fixed.”
In the budget approved by the Council about $4 million of ARPA funds were allocated to start work on Budlong Pool. Those funds are not sufficient to complete any of the options in the original feasibility study, especially when inflation over the last few years is taken into account. The 2022 study listed the least expensive option - $4 million - for reopening the pool was to repair the pool completely while also bringing both the pool and bathhouse up to complete ADA compliance.
The other side of the story
With the mayor on vacation for the press conference and submission of the petition, it fell to Chief of Staff Anthony Moretti to respond, for the mayor and his administration, to questions regarding the pool in a press conference after the previous one was over.
“The real good part about this is that we all are saying the same thing,” Moretti commented before beginning his prepared statement. We want a pool. We want it open as soon as we can, and we want it available for as many people as possible. We’re going to achieve that, and that’s the most wonderful thing here.”
Despite opposing sides and disagreements of opinion, Moretti expressed appreciation for the parts of the issue both sides share in common and how strongly people feel about giving Cranston what they feel it deserves.
“You can have opposing sides, but if you look at the commonality that is fundamentally what we’re all saying. So, I think that’s a sign of good government.”
After taking a minute to voice his personal opinion, Moretti began the press conference and read the prepared statement that Moretti said represented the Mayor’s stance on the matter, as well as the progress that has been made so far.
Since the Mayor’s last public address in March, the administration has been working quietly and efficiently to undertake the modernization and replacement of Budlong Pool, however, while some residents advocate for quick fixes and Band-Aids to open the pool faster, the mayor is taking a more responsible and long-term view of the situation, the statement said.
“While some have the luxury of just criticizing, the Mayor has the responsibility to bring the pool complex into the 21st century,” Moretti read. “Those who want a pool constructed in the shadow of the Depression to reopen in its long-neglected condition may be short sighted. If you take the time, you will find that key vocal opponents of a new pool are long-time political critics of the Mayor’s moderate, common-sense and cost-conscious approach to running the government. Their motives merit scrutiny.”
The statement continued on to say that the mayor hopes to build a new Budlong Pool facility for the next 50 years, not 50 days. While the Mayor recognizes that there are cherished memories of the pool he remains firm in his belief that the new facility he wants will better serve the next generation.
The mayor, the statement read, has been working with local architecture firm Saccoccio Associates, who will be developing plans for the new facility. Mark Saccoccio, it said, brought in well-respected pool specialist Mark Mariano of the Weston & Sampson’s Aquatics Group. After meeting several times with Mariano and reported that the pool cannot and should not be repaired. Findings include:
“The new 7,000 square foot pool will have sufficient capacity to accommodate approximately 500 users at one time,” Moretti said. “That is an extraordinarily high number of swimmers at one time.”
He also said that the city will be seeking bids to build a 2,000 square foot splash optional splash pad to be considered based on available funding. In coming weeks, the administration said they will arrange a public meeting with their consultants for a public discussion of the existing pool conditions and future design plans.
“We urge everyone to take the time to understand the complexities of restoring this facility to make sure it lasts for generations as a wise investment in Cranston’s future,” he said. “We all look forward to all Cranston residents enjoying our new, safe and modern Budlong Pool complex.