CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cranston residents came out in droves Monday night to express their frustrations over the uncertain future of the Budlong Community Pool.
The residents took their concerns to the Cranston City Council regarding Mayor Ken Hopkins’ plan to build a new pool instead of repairing the existing one.
The public pool was originally built back in the 1940s and hasn’t seen a swimmer since the pandemic. It was supposed to reopen last summer, but the city decided to keep the pool closed due to a lack of funding in the budget.
Hopkins has proposed constructing a smaller pool since it would be easier to staff and cheaper to maintain. He claims the reduced-size pool would still accommodate up to 500 swimmers at a time.
“Nobody has said to me, ‘Oh, what a great idea. Let’s take a big pool and make it into a stupid shallow kiddie pool,'” said Cranston resident Sam Brusco, who showed up to the Cranston City Council meeting wearing a beach towel around his neck.
In a report recently released by Hopkins’ office, experts uncovered numerous issues with Budlong Pool, which include a failed liner and undersized piping, pumps and filters. The filter is also reportedly discharging into a neighboring stream rather than a sanitary sewer system, according to the report.
But residents like Susan Blake aren’t buying it, accusing the mayor of not being transparent about his plans for the public pool.
“It is clear that the mayor never considered reopening the existing pool and intended from the start to replace it with a much smaller pool,” Blake said. “Not because the current pool is unfixable or expensive, but because the mayor wants to add other amenities where the pool is now.”
Hopkins argues that the cost of repairing the pool is nearly the same as it would be to repair the current one. His proposal states the new pool would be built using $350,000 in American Rescue Plant Act (ARPA) funding allocated to the city.
The new pool and accompanying bath house would be built using $4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding allocated to the city, according to Hopkins. He said the city will be seeking construction bids for a contractor soon.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have such a beautiful pool right in our city,” resident Patrick Shelton told the city council. “I urge you to be respectful of this historic gem that we’re lucky enough to have.”
Meanwhile, a group of city councilors have joined the calls against a new pool, and have introduced a resolution urging Hopkins to abandon it altogether. The resolution asks Hopkins to consider taking that funding and using it to repair the current pool instead.
“I am opposed to the plan to reduce the size of the pool, and the community is opposed to the Mayor’s plan to reduce the size of the pool,” said city councilor John Donegan, who posted about his opposition on social media on Monday. “We allocated $4M in ARPA funds in this year’s budget, and that should be used to maintain the current size of the the pool, make any necessary repairs to make the pool operational, make the pool handicap accessible, and bring the ‘pool house’ up to code.”
The fate of the public pool will be at the forefront of a meeting at Cranston High School East on Sept. 6. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.