CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins announced plans last month to rebuild and eventually reopen Budlong Community Pool.
The public pool was originally built back in the 1940s and hasn’t seen a swimmer since before the pandemic started. Hopkins is proposing a multi-phased redevelopment, with a goal of getting the pool back open by summer 2024, but the $3.5 million price tag is getting pushback from some city officials.
The mayor’s plan calls for using $350,000 in American Rescue Plant Act (ARPA) funds to hire engineers to redesign the pool and bath house.
City Council President Jessica Marino expressed concern over the use of those funds, saying she’s interested in finding out what it would cost to repair the pool, rather than completely rebuild it.
“None of those steps have been taken,” she told 12 News on Tuesday. “You wouldn’t give up to $350,000 to someone to conduct a possible improvement without knowing, ‘Was that the best possible cost, and what is this actually going to entail?'”
Marino also claims that Hopkins commissioned a feasibility study without consulting the council, then failed to provide essential details like the credentials of the person who conducted it and whether or not the pool can be fixed.
His chief of staff, Anthony Moretti, refuted this, saying the mayor and the city have gone through the proper legal proceedings to move the project forward. He said there was a public bidding process from which the city made a list of potential engineering firms to handle the project.
“We don’t know what else we can do to obtain more qualified and cost-effective firms from this transparent public process,” Moretti said.
“[The pool is] well beyond it’s life. It’s functional obsolescence is here, it is not salvageable in any economically feasible format, so we’d have to put in a new pool,” he added.
Moretti said he believes the council is holding up the process, while Marino argues it’s the other way around, saying the council wants the pool to be operational as soon and cost-effectively as possible. Either way, both sides agree that if they don’t get the ball rolling, Budlong will be in jeopardy of not being open by next summer.