Construction on Watertown's northside pool project to start this summer

Jun. 5—WATERTOWN — The City Council will have one more crack in two weeks at voting to borrow for the new $3.9 million pool at North Elementary School.

But no one expects that approval will happen.

In the same 3-2 vote as previous votes for the project, council members decided to use $3.9 million in the city's fund balance to replace the William J. Flynn pool at North Elementary School on the city's north side.

As they have done right along, council members Cliff G. Olney III, Lisa A. Ruggiero and Patrick J. Hickey again supported moving forward with the pool project, while Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo Pierce continued to oppose it.

They had three options for how to pay for it on Monday night.

But votes on whether to bond for the pool and to use American Rescue Plan Act funding never made it to the floor.

No one introduced the ARPA funds option and Mayor Smith stopped it from a vote by refusing to agree to unanimous consent.

However, bonding for the pool will now automatically come up for a vote during council's June 19 meeting. It would need four votes for approval, when only three council members support the project.

"I saw the importance of bonding," Councilwoman Ruggiero said afterward. "Also, I always believed in the north side."

Like he has said in the past, Mayor Smith reiterated his belief that the city doesn't need a third pool and cannot afford the project, adding that the city will have a $17.7 million deficit in just a few years.

The city is "foolishly spending on something that it doesn't need," he said.

After the vote, Councilwoman Compo Pierce said she continues to oppose the pool but will respect the majority of the council supporting it. She added that she would have preferred to have another project for the north side that could be used year-round.

Before the pool's fate was decided, council members took a series of other votes associated with the project on Monday night. They included four separate contracts for different components of the project.

Con-Tech Building Systems, Gouverneur, will be paid $2,695,000 as the project's general contractor. That company constructed the new pool at Thompson Park three years ago. Hyde-Stone Mechanical Contractors, Watertown, was awarded a $112,532 contract for mechanical work and $199,077 for the plumbing job, while Blackstone Electrical, Dexter, will receive a $361,935 contract for the electrical work.

The L-shaped pool will feature a zero-grade entrance for people with wheelchairs, be 25 yards long and 8 feet deep, and have four lanes for lap swimming. A splash pad feature also will be part of the project. The renovated bathhouse will have restrooms with access from the exterior.

Construction is expected to start this summer and the pool would open for the 2024 season.

In other action on Monday night, council members adopted a $54 million budget that carries no tax rate increase.

To get to a zero-change tax rate, council members unanimously used $78,000 from the fund balance. The budget ended up with a 1.16% tax levy increase.

Despite the same level for the tax rate, city water and sewer customers are getting 10% increases for those departments.