County to keep John Marble Park pool open for 1 more year

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 9, 2013 

MANATEE -- The swimming pool at John H. Marble Park will remain open another year.

Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allocate $45,743 for its continued operation. The outdoor pool was slated to close permanently Oct. 31 after parks department officials said it was underused and that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh asked for a delay in its closing because she has been talking with people who might take over its operation.

Baugh said the pool, adjacent to a church-run community center at 3675 53rd Ave. E., could be used for high school swimming competitions, and also could offer aquatics programs to those who live in the neighborhood.

"It's about the community as a whole," she said.

"We'll work on it, and if it doesn't pan out within a year, we'll try something else," said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.

About 500 people who want to keep the pool open have signed a petition, resident Deborah Graves said in an email to commissioners.

"This pool is the ONLY public pool available to citizens of East Manatee County, and is used every year by the Braden River HS swim team," she wrote. "Concerned citizens are convinced that the low utilization of the pool is due to confusion in the community as to the owners of the pool, and the lack of communication from the county concerning such."

Rick Kimsey, of University Park, is one resident who has signed the petition.

Kimsey welcomed the news that the pool will remain open another year -- his son, Eric, swims on the Braden River High School team.

"I'm thrilled to death the commission has the vision to realize this is an important factor," Kimsey told the Herald.

In 2011, county officials approved a public-private partnership with the Bible Baptist Church of Bradenton. As part of a five-year pact, the church agreed to pay $10 a month for use of the adjacent community center, and to make substantial capital improvements to its 14,951-square-foot building.

But the church declined to operate the pool due to liability issues, a church official said.

The county stepped in to operate the pool and maintain other park amenities, including outdoor basketball court, tennis courts, picnic pavilion, children's playground, public restrooms, bocce ball court and a radio-controlled racing track.

The building previously housed a YMCA facility, which moved its programs to other sites in 2010.

In other action Tuesday, Commission Chairman Larry Bustle said he had been working on how to reopen the closed Rubonia Community Center.

The building in the tiny north Manatee community is owned by the Manatee County School District.

Even if the school district gave the building to the county, the county would still need to repair the roof and air-conditioning system, plus find another $70,000 yearly to run programs there, Bustle said.

"I haven't heard much sympathy on this board for paying that," he said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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