NEWS

Questions still cloud future of Budlong Pool

By ED KDONIAN
Posted 6/28/23

Budlong Pool was front and center at the City Council’s Monday night meeting June 26…again. Residents stepped forward to ask that the pool retain its current dimensions.

Chief of …

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NEWS

Questions still cloud future of Budlong Pool

Posted

Budlong Pool was front and center at the City Council’s Monday night meeting June 26…again. Residents stepped forward to ask that the pool retain its current dimensions.

Chief of Staff Anthony Moretti updated the council on where the project is and councilors asked questions of the plan, including if it successfully addressed council and constituent concerns regarding the finished project.

“They still haven’t answered the question: ‘Have you had a pool expert look at the pool and tell us it can’t be fixed?,” Councilman Robert Ferri said regarding the situation. “The pool is open nine weeks a year, why are we going to spend $4 million? An official pool guy still hasn’t been brought in. They may say that the pool cannot be fixed, but I want to hear it from an expert.”

After hearing about the longstanding memories people in the community had for Budlong Pool, Karen Rosenberg began to understand and sympathize with their feelings. As a retired union organizer, Rosenberg said, she knew that the only way to make feelings known was to help organize a petition to bring the opinion of the people directly to the mayor.

“It’s crazy how it just keeps going on and on,” Rosenberg said “I have lived in Cranston for almost 25 years. I really didn’t know anything about Budlong Pool until people told me about it. I went to a meeting to see what was going on, and I started meeting other residents who were angry, upset and just felt really strongly about this issue.”

During the Spring Festival on Rolfe Square, Rosenberg and other concerned citizens brought their petition to the public.

“We created a flier and had about seven or eight people out there asking people to sign,” she said. “We had over 250 people sign that day. I don’t think I’ve talked to anybody who said they don’t want the big pool or that they would rather have a smaller pool with a splash pad.”

The petition has garnered over 500 signatures since it was introduced at the festival on May 21. Rosenberg said that she feels that the mayor hasn’t been 100% clear about what is happening. Those were sentiments raised by some members of the City Council as well.

“If you look at the docket this evening this item has been continued from January, February, March, June then July, and that is because this council is still in need of answers,” Councilman John Donegan said. “If there was clarity on what is going on this wouldn’t be a discussion this evening. This would have been a settled issue. Preferably it would have been a settled issue three years ago.”

Donegan said that he has never personally voted to reduce the size of Budlong Pool, and that had a vote of the sort come before the council he would not have supported it. In his recollection, which he said may be incorrect, the only vote regarding the pool that has passed through the council was the approval of $4 million in the administration's proposed, and approved by the Council, budget dedicated to the completion of the pool, though the proposed bond funds were amended by the Council to come from ARPA money. The language of that vote, Donegan read aloud at the meeting, specified the use of ARPA funds to “fix” Budlong pool.

“If we knew the mayor was moving forward with a plan to reduce the size we wouldn’t be sitting here asking questions today,” Donegan continued. “Because I don’t think that’s ever actually been communicated to us in this body. So, director, I don’t think you [Chief of Staff Anthony Moretti] or the administration have been as clear as you think you have with us.”

Responding to the concerns, Moretti said that the administration would take the time to look back through past transcripts in order to address the issues of clarity and to make sure that the administration's position and plan was properly communicated.

“I’ll be pleased to report back about the clarity or lack of clarity,” Moretti said. “If you wish us to suspend movement on the pool we will consider that advice.”

Moretti explained that the current design firm, Saccoccio & Associates, was already in motion in creating a plan for the construction of a new pool, and renovations of the bathhouse. While he was unsure as to exactly how far the plans had moved forward, he assured the council work is underway, though no timeline for the completion of the design has been provided by Saccoccio & Associates.

“It’s being done now,” he said. “They’re ‘spec’ing’ it out. That will take time. As I’ve been expressing that it’s under a tight deadline in terms of labor and materials, so we won’t have a better idea until the design build is done and we have the bids.”

Council Vice President Lammis Vargas suggested a session where the council could address concerns of the community with the administration and look at the process and where it stands, if it doesn’t add too much time or money to the current plan.

“I don’t think the administration, or we as a council, are ever going to be able to satisfy the entire City of Cranston,” Vargas said. “I have to be honest about that. I don’t agree with my husband all the time. So, I’m wondering if the sketch is presented to us, I don’t know if there is a cost to that if we send it back and they have to re-sketch it, is there any input at all, now that we have this company, that we as a council can participate in and be part of?”

Vargas said that her only hope is to avoid further delays wherever they come from, whether on the Council’s end or the administrations. With funding already passed for the pool, Vargas said that it would be important to the council to have some understanding of what the project will eventually look like.

Council President Jessica Marino took the opportunity of yet another discussion of the pool to attempt to clarify the situation.

“Once again I feel like a broken record,” Marino said. “We are council members that were elected to represent our constituents, and they do have a voice. Otherwise what are we doing here?”

Marino said that while the discussion has been continuous over the course of the year, it is important that members of the council and administration recognize the concerns of the public.

“With respect to Councilwoman Germain, her point was well taken and Councilman Donegan’s,” Marino said. “She has questions because not enough information has been relayed. We hear, as we heard again tonight, and I’m sure to give the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t the intention, but I heard ‘Okay Councilwoman Germain if this is what you want then we’re going to suspend movement.’ We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Marino said that assessing the viability of the pool and whether or not it can be repaired and opened again in its current form has never actually been brought before the council in a clear way. After receiving the Federal Hill study and questioning its viability the council felt unclear of the actual status of the pool and what can and should be done based on evidence.

“We can say it’s the largest pool in the country and no one else has it, but we as a city did have it,” Marino continued. “We had it staffed by lifeguards, and we had it operational for the community for tons of years. Now all of a sudden we were told without specific facts, and I’m not assuming anything intentional, but it’s factual that we weren’t given specific facts and a reasonable assessment by experts as to whether or not that pool can function in its current form.”

Marino said that the one thing the council has been clear about, along with the public, is that it is a priority to get the pool done as quickly as possible at the lowest cost possible.

“I want this discussion to be a productive discussion and not a spiteful discussion where just because questions are raised we’re going to somehow delay it and then say it’s the council’s fault,” Marino said. “It is not the council’s fault. I really don’t want to hear that suggestion, whether it’s intended or not, again.”

The City Council’s next meeting will take place on July 24 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall on Park Avenue.

Budlong, pool, future