FORT WORTH -- In one of the hottest summers in decades, all seven city pools sit empty and unused.
Problems with the aging pools led to their closure in recent years, and a report to the City Council on Tuesday included no immediate plans to change that, sparking frustration among council members.
"I'm very disappointed that we are in this situation," said Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, who said Fort Worth residents are going to neighboring cities, including Arlington, to swim. "I'm very disappointed that more progress hasn't been made.
"We seem to find money for the city of Fort Worth when we want to find it. And then when it comes to the things that are not so sexy, we play around with it."
The Forest Park pool was the last operating city pool, but it was closed last year after its nearly 20-year-old liner detached. The other six -- Como, Hillside, Kellis, Marine, Sycamore and Sylvania -- have been closed since 2009 because of budget cuts.
Officials have said the aging pools, some designed in the 1920s, would cost too much to repair and operate.
Other cities have also closed pools, including Atlanta, Phoenix and Philadelphia, because they couldn't afford to keep them open. "It's part of a national trend that we are seeing," said Richard Zavala, Fort Worth's director of parks and community services.
Mayor Betsy Price said a national trend is no excuse.
"But Fort Worth does things better than [many] in the nation," she said. "We have to become a leader in this area.
"It's about the quality of life for our citizens."
Hole in the ground?
Zavala updated the council on the 2008 Aquatics Master Plan, saying a new pool costs about $6.5 million and a splash pad about $800,000. The estimated cost for repairing the pools is $12.5 million.
"We're in 100-degree days here in July," Councilman Sal Espino said. "We are all frustrated with the situation we find ourselves in.
"We hear the $12 million number," he said. "But what is that minimum number to turn the pools on?"
Zavala pointed out that the pools have decades-old designs and problems with old shells and liners, mechanical systems, and outdated decks and bathhouses. Several pool areas don't meet standards for handicapped access.
Council members suggested exploring public-private partnerships and seeking federal grants to open the pools.
Zavala's proposal to put a formal plan before the council by March was met by concern from members who said that wouldn't leave time to open any sort of water facility next summer.
Councilman Joel Burns said the council must decide what it is willing to do to keep public water facilities in Fort Worth.
"We as a city have neglected our pools ... literally for decades," he said. "We need to talk about what our priorities are.
"Do we want to have splash pads ... or actually have a hole in the ground where kids can learn to swim?"
Several council members said they want that hole in the ground, to help counter childhood obesity and give youths another safe place where they can cool off and spend their time.
Councilman Danny Scarth said it's up to the council, which has repeatedly cut funding for pools because of a tight economy and budget shortfalls, to make that happen.
"We bear the responsibility for this," he said. "We made those very, very tough financial decisions about what are we going to do with our money."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610