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Politics and Government

Watertown residents fighting against closure of city pool

Elizabeth Smith

At a recent meeting of the Watertown City Council, a handful of residents protested outside city hall hoping to delay efforts to demolish and fill in one of the city's three public pools. 

The council voted to permanently close the Alteri Pool at the fairgrounds earlier this year after facing millions of dollars in losses in sales tax revenues due to the pandemic. Members of the citizen's Make a Splash Group, like Elizabeth Smith, say while residents understand the financial constraints, destroying the facility would be a waste of the public resources that have been invested in it.

"We were under the impression that it would just be closed and covered for this year," Smith said. "The fact that they are trying to fill it and destroy it forever, that's what we are fighting against right now to make sure that if the current council doesn't want anything to do with it, maybe someone else will."

Smith said her group would be willing to fundraise and ask for donations from local businesses to keep the pool open. More than 1,400 people have signed a petition calling on the city not to tear down the Alteri Pool. However, Mayor Jeff Smith said with an annual operating cost of more than $100,000, it's too expensive to keep the pool open and too much of a liability to not fill in. 

And while Mayor Smith said he is open to turning the pool into a less costly splash pad in the future if city finances improve, it would be untenable to reopen the pool as Watertown faces the loss of a multi-million dollar hydro contract in just a few years.

"In 2029, the hydroelectric contract is over with National Grid," Mayor Smith said. "We'll lose about $6 million. We have 10 years to buffer ourselves against that loss in revenue."

Mayor Smith said there is no vote on whether or not to fill in the pool as the council already approved closing it with the passage of the budget. He expects it will be filled in sometime this year.