Is There a Clear Pool Plan?

The fiscal problems of the City of Pittsburgh had a hard effect on the swimming pools used for recreation. In 2004, the City had 32 pools, and, based on population, about 11 residents for every 1 pool. Thirteen were closed, and nine have remained that way. The other four found new lives as either a spray park (3) or property of a non-profit organization (1). After the closings the ratio of residents per pool rose to 16.8.

The Act 47 amended report of 2009 suggested that the City look hard at pool usage and, if a pool’s average annual paid attendance was under a threshold of 70% of other pools, it should be closed. Additional spray parks could be built in their place; if not, the team wrote that the City "shall also develop site remediation plans for the closed facilities".

Three years later the City Controller’s office has issued a performance report noting that, yes, "Citiparks administration should devise a plan to utilize the 9 closed pool sites to eliminate liability issues. Finding alternative uses for the site, filling in the pools, or selling the space are a few options to explore". It also weighed in on the pool closing issue noting "many factors, such as pool age and annual maintenance costs, should be used to evaluate whether to close a pool or keep it open. Pool usage, or attendance, should also be a leading consideration in this analysis."

That might be a Herculean task given that the audit found the pool system is antiquated on getting good data to make these decisions. Attendance is logged manually and cashiers do their best to make sure they don’t double count patrons; there is no written manual for pool maintenance nor for the maintenance history or repairs made to pools.

Based on the data that is in the audit for the 2010 summer season the average operational cost per swimmer was $4.13, the average maintenance cost per swimmer was $0.93, and the average age of the pools is 42 years. Certainly, geography and ease of accessing a nearby pool or spray park would have to be taken into consideration. Further closings might be determined through a formula of near equally weighted factors, such as been the process in the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ deliberations.