Despite outcry from a group of residents in the Bunche Park neighborhood, Miami Gardens will continue to build a more shallow neighborhood pool.
The Miami Gardens City Council voted 5-1 Wednesday night against a resolution to stop construction at Bunche Park Pool to build the pool at a maximum depth of 10 feet as opposed to the current plans that call for the pool to go to only five feet in the deep end.
The only favorable vote was from Vice Mayor Erhabor Ighodaro who sponsored the item and has been behind the charge to build the pool at deeper depth. Councilwoman Lisa Davis was absent. Halting the project to make the pool deeper would have cost an additional $1.6 million, according to staff estimates.
The plans for the pool, and concern over the depth, gained steam at a community meeting last month hosted by Ighodaro.
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Neighbors said they were unaware that the new pool would be only five feet deep and criticized city leaders for not keeping them informed. They argue that the 10-foot depth, the depth of the original pool when it was built in 1963, was more suitable for teaching children how to swim and dive and didn’t need to be changed.
The project, in the planning stages for years, is being paid for through the city’s $60 million general obligation bond, which voters approved in 2014. The pool has been closed since summer 2007, after falling into disrepair. Construction work began earlier this year after a groundbreaking ceremony last August.
Ighodaro previously proposed using reserve funds or taking money from other programs to pay for a deeper pool. Wednesday’s proposal called for taking money from the contingency funds — money set aside for likely cost overruns — for some bond projects to pay for the Bunche Park Pool proposal.
“This is about trying to remedy what some in the community see as an injury or a grievance,” Ighodaro said.
Mayor Oliver Gilbert said that he respected Ighodaro’s efforts but thought that taking money from those contingency funds would be a bad policy decision.
“What he’s doing, why he’s trying so hard, it’s not easy. So let me say it, so when you blame somebody it can be me, we cannot afford to make the pool deeper,” Gilbert said. “If we take the contingency from the other projects, we stop the other projects.”
The new pool’s foundation and the pool deck have already been poured with concrete, according to city staff, and increasing the depth would mean demolishing that foundation and redesigning the pool.
Renovation plans were first approved in May 2015 and building the new pool and facility is expected to cost about $4.3 million.
Beyond the pool, the plan for the neighboring park, across the street, is to build an alternative sports complex. The current recreation building would be torn down and replaced with a multistory gymnasium with a running track on the second floor and instruction in boxing, gymnastics, martial arts and dance.