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Walsh says he’ll do everything he can to open some Syracuse pools this summer

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Schiller Park Pool in Syracuse.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said he will do everything in his power to open public pools this summer. But there are a lot of factors working against the city. 

Walsh said the longer Syracuse goes without receiving financial aid from the federal government, because of revenue losses from the coronavirus shutdown, the more the decision on reopening pools becomes about finances rather than health concerns.

“Our pools are expensive and we have no indication when the federal government might act,” Walsh said.

Syracuse public pools usually open during the third week of June. The city is looking at opening three of its eight outdoor pools. Limits on social gatherings would still apply. While Walsh hounds congressional representatives, he’s urging the parks department to get creative.

“Appointments, wristbands, online scheduling, those are all things that we’re considering,” Walsh said.

The city also needs to find and certify lifeguards. While logistically it would be a challenge, opening pools brings some relief to kids on hot days. While handing out masks on the city’s west side, Walsh asked some kids what he could do to help, and they told him to open up pools.  

“For many children in our city, our pools are the highlight of their summer,” Walsh said. “They have no other relief for cooling down. That breaks my heart to think that we’re not going to be able to deliver that to them.”

Democrats in the House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, which includes funding for cities and states. Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), voted against it because of other provisions in the bill. But he said he does support aid to local governments, which could be in legislation being written in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.