Heated exchange at meeting about city pools - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Heated exchange at meeting about city pools

Updated:
The city will close up to five pools for repairs this summer. The city will close up to five pools for repairs this summer.
Mayor Greg Ballard spoke at a meeting about the pool closings. Mayor Greg Ballard spoke at a meeting about the pool closings.

Indianapolis -  Plans to close up to five public pools for repairs this summer has some residents upset. 

More than 60 people turned out at Bethel Park for a meeting with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and members of his staff.  The city says Bethel pool alone leaks about 100,000 gallons of water a day.
  
Ballard said the pools "need care and attention and they haven't been getting it."

Several people had questions.

"What will you do for our kids? Because what you're doing is putting them in the street," asked Kenneth Strader.

Parks Director Stuart Lowry said the parks department would provide a shuttle service to other pools and additional activities to accommodate children.
   
"They don't want to come here and play basketball, they love cooling.  We need to cool off the children," Donnetta Strader said.

Several expressed anger, noting that nearby IPS School #64 was among two in the area closing for good. 
    
Vickie Smith said given the economy, "there's no summer jobs and now the little kids have no place to go. It doesn't take a year for a community to be destroyed it can take a few days."
    
One man called the situation, "a civil rights matter, I think, and you're discriminating because of race."
     
That brought the mayor to his feet. 

"We're just not going to take that. This has been losing 100,000 gallons (of water) a day and frankly you've been neglected for 10 years at this place and you didn't say anything. And now, we're bringing it and we're trying to fix it and we will not take that racial discrimination taunt," Ballard said.
    
Asked why now and not ten years ago (before he was mayor), Ballard said he was the one to hold accountable.

"It's always my call. I could not let it continue in good faith. Even if it happened a long time ago, I'm standing up and saying no more," he said. 
    
The parks department estimates it will cost roughly $4 million to fix all five pools. Despite already running in the red, the mayor promised he would find the money. 

"They won't be stuck," he said.

Donnetta Strader wasn't convinced. 

"We have always gotten short-changed in this community," she said.
    
"How do they know they won't find something once they start digging?" Smith asked. "How can they promise just a year?"
    
"I'm not guaranteeing when it will open, we need to look at that," Ballard said. "It's why we're trying to be honest about this."
  
Wes Montgomery, LaShonna Bates and Thatcher Park pools will also be closed this summer.  The city hopes to fix a fourth pool, Gustafson, before the pool season opens Memorial Day weekend. 

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