At the May 4 Parker Town Council meeting, the council rejected a proposal to cancel the Town’s lease with the Colorado River Indian Tribes for City Park. The park is the site of several fields used by Parker Little League, and Council Member David Lucas said he did not want to cancel the lease while Little League’s season is underway.
One of the proposals is to use the money that is now being spent on City Park to pay for operations for a new Town swimming pool. The Town hasn’t had a public pool since the summer of 2003.
Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer said this is a subject that often comes up at the councils’ retreats. She decided to bring it forward as an action item in a regular council meeting.
According to information provided by Wedemeyer, it costs the Town over $70,000 per year to operate the park. She said that does not include insurance or repairs due to vandalism.
Community Development Director Nora Yackley said the restrooms at City Park were vandalized earlier this year, and they have to use portable restroom facilities at the park.
Wedemeyer noted the Town has a Little League ballfield in Aaron Hill Field at Western Park. This field was built by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Public Service.
The Town has been setting aside funds each year towards the cost of building a new pool. At the end of fiscal year 2019-20, the last year for which full figures are available, there was $242,298.59 in that fund.
The Town had applied for and been awarded a state grant to build a new pool in 2008. However, the state went into a financial crisis when the economy collapsed that year due to the failure of the housing market. This was felt particularly hard in Arizona, where new construction is a major part of the economy. The state “swept” the grant funds back so they could balance their own budget.
If the Town builds a new pool, Wedemeyer said it would only be half the size of the old pool, which was Olympic-sized. It would compliment the “splash pad,” which was installed on one end of where the old pool was. With a much smaller pool, Wedemeyer said the operating costs could be paid for from the money currently being used for City Park.
In a financial analysis provided to the Council, Wedemeyer noted the old pool cost $141,424 in fiscal year 2002-03, the last year it was open. The Town’s current general fund budget revenues are approximately $3 million per year, with the sales tax contributing $1.1 million. To fund the pool at the same level would take about 13 percent of the sales tax revenue and 5 percent of the overall general fund budget.
Wedemeyer, who is president of the Pop Harvey Aquatic Association, the group that operates the summer swim program, said one of her goals was for the Town of Parker to have a new public pool. She said young people need something during the summer months, and they needed a safe place to learn to swim. She added that Parker has an excellent Little League facility in Aaron Hill Field.
“We want to take care of the kids,” she said.
One of the reasons why the Town applied for a ballfield to be built by the D-Backs and APS was the fields at City Park no longer met Little League standards. The Town had applied for grants to upgrade the fields, but these applications were rejected because the Tribes would not say one way or another if they would renew the lease.
The pool at Pop Harvey Park was opened in 1979. It was closed after the 2003 summer season because it had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer safe to operate. The pool was leaking and needed extensive repairs. After the grant for a new pool was taken back by the state, the old pool was demolished in 2009.
In the years it was in operation, it’s estimated more than 10,000 area young people learned to swim there.