Prattville cuts out 'free swim' at city pool

PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - The Prattville city pool remains full of water but it will not be full of kids this summer, surprising news to Brant Ward, the father of two children.

"It's sad and I'm just now learning about it," said Ward.

The mayor says he didn't have a choice. He claims last summer the pool put the city in the hole to the tune of $24,000.

"You have to have a certain amount of lifeguards and sometimes we had a lot of children and sometimes we didn't," said Mayor Bill Gillespie.

Another indicator of Prattville's continuing financial struggles. In recent weeks the new mayor cut the budget down to the bare bones and laid off more than 40 full time and part time employees. Add to that a leak in a pool built in the early 1970s.

"These are hard times and we're being very mindful of the taxpayers money. This was something we had to do," said Mayor Gillespie.

The part of the pool that's closing is the so-called 'free swim' time, although children paid $2 to swim all afternoon. The 'free swim' time schedule was Monday through Friday noon to 5 and the weekends.

Swimming lessons and planned events will remain. In fact, Prattville took in around $14,000 in swimming lesson registrations last year, yet even that was not enough to cover the depth of the maintenance costs which ran around $15,000.

"We are looking at under every rock to see where we can save here and there," said the mayor.

The mayor says the city spent around $100,000 a few years ago on a study to determine whether a new pool was feasible. The study indicated a new, modern community pool would cost more than $2 million dollars, a project that's on hold for now.

"I do wish they would look elsewhere because I can't imagine summer without being able to swim," said Ward.

Parents like Mr. Ward say not hearing the full chatter of happy kids at the pool this summer will be a little odd, the first partial lockdown of the pool in more than 30 years.

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