The Mattocks Park swimming pool will not be ready for its traditional Memorial Day opening, but there is a chance the pool will open before the end of the summer.
During a regular meeting May 25, the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission discussed the fate of the pool for the 2021 season.
Robert Edmonds, director of public works, told commissioners that he plans to ask the El Dorado City Council to commit $40,000 to cover the costs of opening and operating the pool this summer, possibly in time for an Independence Day.
Edmonds and parks and playgrounds commissioners noted that the city is operating from its 2020 budget as local accounting firm Emrich and Scroggins works to sort out the city’s financial statements and reconcile bank statements from 2020 and year to date for 2021.
The firm has reportedly completed the work for 2020 and has started on 2021.
Consequently, several city projects have been placed on hold until the financials are cleared and a 2021 city budget approved.
However, Edmonds pointed out that the Mattocks pool was closed last year because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; thus, money that was budgeted for the pool in 2020 is still available.
City officials and the EPPC have said annual operating costs for the pool come to about $30,000, which includes pay for three lifeguards.
Edmonds said approximately $15,000 would be needed this year for short-term repairs and maintenance to bring the pool up to state health codes.
The work includes some plumbing repairs for the bathrooms in the pool house and the pool’s mechanical system, cleaning, power-washing and repairing the lifeguard stand.
Commissioner Alexis Alexander also reminded Edmonds that two handrails need to be installed at the shallow end of the pool.
Several of the issues were identified by inspectors from the Arkansas Department of Health, who to took a cursory look at the facility in March.
The EPPC is tweaking an overall improvement plan for city parks and more extensive upgrades and repairs for the Mattocks swimming pool and pool house are included in the draft plan, Alexander said.
Commissioners are working to gather cost estimates and quotes and other information to present another funding request to the El Dorado Works Board, who administers the city’s one-cent sales tax for economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.
The EPPC has approached the EWB twice within the past five months with proposals and each time, EWB members have asked for more specific details, including which park the EPPC expects to start with, how many parks are included in the plan, a timeline for completion of the improvement project, terms and conditions for equipment purchases, etc.
Commissioners are also working to schedule an inspection of the Mattocks pool and its mechanical system to assess what repairs are needed and to determine whether it would be more economically feasible to repair the existing pool, modify the facility by scaling down the size of the pool and adding a water feature for smaller children and non-swimmers or build a new pool and pool house.
Ken Goudy, chairman of the EPPC, said the commissioners had been in talks with a pool company in Central Arkansas to inspect the pool but the company has not committed to an appointment.
“We can’t get the company in Little Rock to come down and they came highly recommended,” Alexander said.
Goudy said he has reached out to other pool companies in the region and has not had much luck.
“We’ve gotten other recommendations but nobody is interested in public swimming pools. Even in Louisiana, they say they’re not licensed in Arkansas and they don’t want to come to Arkansas,” Goudy said.
City Council member Willie McGhee asked if commissioners had checked with other cities with public swimming pools and water parks, such as Camden and Arkadelphia.
Commissioners have said they hope to at least have the Mattocks pool operable before the end of the summer.
“I’d rather go ahead and open to give the kids something to do,” Alexander said.
Commissioner David Hurst inquired about lifeguards and asked when the city should begin the hiring process.
Commissioner Karen Hicks said EPPC should work with the Rev. Ray Johnson, former city sanitation supervisor who oversees the management of the Mattocks pool, on the matter.
McGhee also suggested that the group reach out to HealthWorks Fitness Center, which operates an indoor swimming pool.
Goudy and Alexander noted they need to contact Cole Kitchens, pool program specialist for the Arkansas Department of Health, to schedule an inspection of the pool in preparation of a summer opening.
Kitchens and Donna Johnson, environmental health specialist for the ADH, toured the facility in March.
Rucks asked if LanXess will supply the chemicals that are needed to operate the Mattocks pool this year.
For several years, the specialty chemicals company, formerly known as Great Lakes, has partnered with the city to help maintain and operate the pool.
The company has donated pool chemicals, patio furniture and other items and has hosted events, including pizza parties, at the pool.
“It’s not in their budget this year,” Goudy said in response to Rucks’s question about the chemicals. “They didn’t do it last year because the pool was closed so they didn’t include it in this year’s budget.”
The Mattocks pool opened in the early 1950s and is the only public swimming pool in the city. Admission is free.
Mattocks Park is also the only city park with a fishing pond.
The pond is a part of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Family and Community Fishing Program.
The AGFC stocks the pond with catfish, bream and bass and regulates its use. The pond was last stocked with catfish on May 14.
The pond is to be used by children, ages 15 and younger, and adults who are 65 years old and older or who have disabilities, per AGFC regulations.
People who are 16 – 64 years old may assist and fish with eligible users who are actively fishing.
For more information about regulations for the pond, visit www.afgc.com/en/zone-map/fishing-map/672/ or call 1-800-364-4263.