HAMMOND — Despite expressing his concerns about losing a community pool in Hammond's 3rd District, Hammond City Councilman Anthony Higgs voted along with his fellow council members Monday night to approve a resolution for an $8.7 million bond issue to remodel the Pulaski Park pool but demolish and repurpose the city's other public pools at Edison, Martin Luther King and Hessville parks.
The vote was unanimous with all nine council members supporting the resolution.
Higgs, D-3rd, said residents in the 3rd District fought hard to get the MLK pool more than 40 years ago, and children in that community have few recreational options. He said he presented a petition with hundreds of signatures to keep the pool open.
"I'm not a fool. I know this is going to pass," Higgs said. "I'm not against improvements in the parks. I'd like to do what's necessary and keep all the pools open. It's always a struggle to get things done in the 3rd District.
"I'd like to see this remain open even if we have to use casino dollars or whatever is necessary to keep the pools open. I don't want to get into a pissing fight with the mayor. That's not what this is about. I would like to see a pool in the 3rd District. I will always do whatever is necessary for the 3rd District and the community I represent," he said.
Higgs also said the children and families in the 3rd District don't have the kind of money that families in other districts have, and children would have problems getting to Pulaski pool at 137th Street and Sheffield Avenue in the 1st District.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the pools are not compliant with regulations and lose about $200,000 each year. He said they are only open about seven weeks, and he said once school begins in the fall, they lose their customers and lifeguards who return to the classroom.
McDermott also said the city's pools compete with a multimillion dollar pool in Munster which attracts people from across the Region. McDermott said the MLK pool also has the least amount of visitors each year.
"We intend to replace the MLK pool with something that is spectacular," he said.
Third District resident Dale Parrish said he'd like to see the MLK pool, and other pools in the community, improved. He said he's lived in the community 36 years. "I'm not in support of it closing," he said.
Robertsdale resident George Stoya said the community does not have the money to support all of the things that city officials are talking about doing.
"We've got to reign in our spending," he said. "It would be nice to have pools and other recreational activities but there is risk involved. We're writing checks that I don't think we can cash."
The city's four aging public pools have been a hot button topic since McDermott opted to keep them closed last summer, citing safety concerns and a $5 million price tag for much-needed repairs.