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FRIDAY, Nov. 22 — The future of the historic Moores Park Pool hangs in the balance as Lansing officials grapple with at least $1.2 million in repairs to bring the nearly 100-year-old facility up to code by next summer.
Without a clear plan to cover those fixes, however, Mayor Andy Schor is “open to just about everything” as he turns to the community for new ideas on how to help float the bill and keep the cherished summertime hotspot operational for another century.
The problem: There are a lot of priorities and only so much cash to go around.
“This is a funding issue,” Schor told a few dozen residents gathered for a “listening session” at the old Moores Park School last night to address the topic on Thursday evening. “We’re trying to make sure we utilize our dollars in the best possible way. $1.2 million is a lot of playground equipment around the city. That’s a lot of money for other things that need to get done.”
The egg-shaped public pool was built along Moores River Drive in 1922 and has served as a summertime oasis for Lansing residents ever since. Designed by engineer Wesley Bintz, officials believe the pool to be one of only five of its design that have survived among several dozen built nationwide in the first half of the 20th century.
While dozens of Bintz pools have folded across the country, largely due to unsurmountable maintenance costs, Lansing has managed to keep its facility open for 10 weeks each year at a cost of about $100,000 annually, officials said. But a recent report generated within the Parks Department shows it’s past time to pay the piper.
The rusted piping beneath the pool is leaking and needs to be replaced. Discharge valves spill directly into the Grand River and need to be rerouted. An outdated heater needs replacement. Lights around the perimeter need to be repaired. The concrete interior is cracking and stained with rust. The pool has clearly seen far better days.
Additionally, Schor said the pool — for unknown reasons — loses eight to 10 inches of water daily. And given Moores Park’s proximity to the riverfront, it can only be assumed that the chlorinated pollution is somehow finding its way into the waters of the Grand River. Schor said that needs to be addressed before the pool can be reopened.
“Everybody wants the pool to be there,” Schor said. “Everybody also wants playground equipment. Everybody wants a lot of different things. We’re trying to navigate this right now. To have a pool this broken and leaking this much into our river with chlorine and other chemicals is a problem and we need to have it addressed.”
But while the pool continues to deteriorate, its popularity among Lansing residents has only grown. Data provided by city officials shows the number of annual visitors more than doubled from 2,969 in 2014 to more than 6,078 this past summer. And city officials are trying to determine if it’s worth keeping the investment alive.
“This is not a new conversation across the nation,” said Lansing Park Board President Veronica Gracia-Wing. “Bintz pools are lovely, incredible, architectural and historical assets but they’re also a pain in the butt” to maintain. “We’re seeing that. There are municipalities all across the nation that have had this very discussion.”
Schor, after scribbling down dozens of suggestions from local residents yesterday evening, said no decisions have been made to shutter the pool next season. But, without a method to plug leaks and fund growing maintenance costs, its closure could be a real possibility in 2020. He’s counting on local residents to help him find a solution.
“We knew there were big problems and we really don’t have a plan, Schor said. “And if you want to criticize me for that, please have at it. We want to have a conversation before we go into budgeting and making decisions. We just wanted to have a conversation.”
City officials hope to lock down a plan for the pool at Moores Park ahead of the next fiscal year budget due in March. In the meantime, Schor encourages anyone with suggestions to reach out to the Parks Department.
“We want to be a lot of things,” Schor said. “We want to have playground equipment for kids all around the city. We want to provide camps for kids all around the city. Priorities means prioritization. I can’t prioritize everything with $1.3 million in a parks millage. We need to make sure it’s sustainable and that we can fix it.”