Committee proposes new plan to keep Dearborn pools open
By Samer Hijazi | Friday, 03.16.2012, 02:10 AM

DEARBON — The Outdoors Pool Committee met with Dearborn city officials last week at city hall to discuss plans of maintaining local neighborhood pools in an effort to keep them from closing down. Last year budget cuts resulted in the closing of two local pools, Hemlock and Whitmore Bolles. Despite the mayor’s announcement that no pools would be scheduled for closure in 2012, the future of six small pools in the city remains in limbo.   
Seven-year-old Ella Michalek holds a poster saying “Save Our Pools” in 2011.
The Outdoors Pool Committee was formed in the summer of 2011 in order to come up with a viable solution to keeping the city’s local pools opened after talks of shutting them down had emerged in order to cut down on the city’s deficit. People on the committee include two Save Our Pools members (SOP, an initiative launched by local residents), two members from of the Recreation commission, a member from the city sustainability department, and two members from the recreation department.  
Together they have formed a new plan that would require residents’ votes in order to keep the pools opened.  The new plan calls for Special Assessment Districts (SAD) to be put in place that would be responsible for funding the local pools. An SAD is a defined geographical location within a city that pays an additional amount to enjoy certain benefits only located within that district. 
The committee has divided the Dearborn neighborhoods into six SADs, based on proximity to the closest pool. Each SAD would be allocated with the operating costs of maintaining their pool in that specific neighborhood.  It has been estimated that the average annual cost of one of these small pools is $60,800.
Approximately 2,000-3,000 residential parcels have been placed in each SAD for the pools of Crowley, Summer Stephens, and Ten Eyck. The SAD plan would also include re-opening the Hemlock and Whitmore Bolles pools. Once details are finalized, each household would be required to pay anywhere from $38 to $68 annually depending on the number of parcels within their SAD. 
There is however a major problem with one pool that is located at Lapeer Park in the South end of the city. The outdoor pool committee has estimated that only around 900 parcels are within the parks proximity, which could double or even triple costs in order to maintain the pool compared to the other pools on the plan. The SAD within the Lapeer area would be responsible for a fee closer to around $140 annually for their residents. 
It is unknown at this time how the Lapeer situation would be handled, but there has been suggestions made by the committee for the city to cover some costs in order to get the SAD in the Lapeer area on par with the other five SADs.
In order for the six SAD plans to move forward, they will need to be put on the city ballot and approved by residents per SAD. The SOP team will be launching a campaign this month in an effort to get around 200 signatures and raise awareness of the issues. The signatures must be collected by April in order for the proposal to make it on the ballot. It will be up to local residents to approve the new plan when it goes up for a vote in June. 
“We’ve gotten a lot of mixed feedback,” said Kristyn Taylor, an SOP member and one of the representatives on the committee. “We feel like it’s a good idea, but we still get a lot of questions because it’s not that common of a practice. We need to come together as a community and make a decision.” 
According to Taylor, the next initiative will be to raise awareness about the proposal over the next month. A city meeting is being planned in order to inform residents, hear inputs and answer any questions. Educational sessions will also take place within the proposed SADs to inform residents about the new plan in details. 
Discussions of ways to trim down some of the costs per SAD have also been put on the table according to Taylor. These routes would include neighborhood fundraisers, sponsorships and donations. 
“I think the neighborhood pools say a lot about what the Dearborn residents value and what we want in our city,” Taylor added. “The ability for our residents to step up and speak out to advocate for these pools really says a lot. Not only will it maintain and improve the value of the home, but it will reinforce the concept of us being one city and acting together for the best interest in all of us.”
If the SAD plan moves forward, residents will have unlimited access to their local pool all season long. Talks on whether residents will be able to go to a pool in another SAD is still up for debate. Any of the SADs that do not pass after the June vote will most likely result in the closing of those specific pools in 2013. 

By Samer Hijazi

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