SPAR to consider concessions after pool closure vote

Published 8:58 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A special meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at 5:30 p.m. at the Sulphur Parks and Recreation facility, 933 W. Parish Road, to discuss rates and special hours of operation of the fitness center’s pools as a concession for residents impacted by the SPAR board of commissioner’s decision to close Center Park pool. The admission is $3. The admission at Center Park pool was $1.75 last summer.

The fitness center offers an Olympic-sized swimming pool and adjoining smaller pool for children and seniors, and is a separate aquatic facility from SPAR Waterpark.

The board voted to close the Center Circle pool – again – during Tuesday’s meeting. They were asked to reconsider the decision they made at the March 15 meeting after a rash of social posts were made that expressed disappointment.

It was decided to close this SPAR pool because of  “inadequate power to support external temporary showers, restrooms and ticket building, excessive cost for rental of temporary buildings, along with low attendance for the 2021 season,” according to the meeting agenda.

Only two people signed up to speak for keeping the pool open. Barry Price asked why the building needed replacing as its exterior appearance has remained the same, except for the metal roof.

Some board members noted they had visited the property and the foundation was cracked and daylight could be seen through the walls.

Catherine Pleasant asked that the plans to redesign the space be made available to the public before plans to close the pool are solidified. The higher cost to visit another SPAR pool or the SPAR Waterpark was also a factor in her decision to speak on behalf of those who wanted the pool open this summer, and demo or construction work postponed until school started.

“Some members of the community cannot afford to go to the waterpark,” Pleasant said. “However, we can afford to send our children to a safe community pool.”

Later in the meeting, she said that if the members would have put the community on notice sooner  — August of last year — the opposition would not have been as critical and timing so condensed.

She also noted — and some board members voiced agreement — that the board should address the issue of sharing information.

The public is invited to attend board meetings held every third Tuesday of the month, according to board president Mitch Bowers.

The board decided to open the pool last year, and rent the temporary trailers as a means to offer some sense of normalcy, some of them explained, after the hurricanes and COVID stay-at-home mandates.

Bowers said safety of the children is the major issue and the liability involved, and he anticipated that the pool would operate at around the same loss as it did last year, a figure between $30,000 and $40,000.

“While I understand that you guys all live there and you’re taxpayers. It’s a big area. There are taxpayers in Carlyss and North Sulphur that would probably argue the other way. I don’t want my taxpayer going to something like this that’s going to operate at a loss.”

Doug Comeaux called attention to one point that would be different this year than at the pool’s opening in 2021. It would be necessary to install a temporary pole and power lines.

Calcasieu Parish Police Tony Tramonte, District 15, thanked two board members and the park’s executive director for meeting with him and Sulphur Council member Mandy Thomas, “when it was a total no.”

“They did us a favor,” he said, “really, by looking into opening that pool, what it would take. They’re all vested in making sure that we get the best that we deserve.”

He said transparency is something that the board, the city council and the police jury could all work on.

“If there is a way to do it, I’m begging you, open that pool,” he implored. “If you need money, which I don’t think that’s what it is, but I will try to use my gaming funds to keep the pool open if that’s the problem. If it can’t happen because it’s not safe, I’m going to tell everybody, I’m with them.”