Dearborn demands pools, and a blue sky

Save Our Pools

Have you ever had an argument with someone over the color of the sky? It’s green, they claim. With no tornado in sight on a beautiful summer day, you know the sky actually is blue.

Of course, in Michigan, our sky is usually more grey than blue, but that’s not the point. You provide scientific evidence, pictures and affidavits of 5,000 people who swear the sky is blue, yet your friend is convinced it’s green.

The entire conversation sounds completely insane doesn’t it?

Yes, but it is eerily similar to the year-long struggle between Save Our Pools and the city of Dearborn. Last year the city threatened to close and demolish six of the eight outdoor pools. The residents turned out in droves to tell them they were wrong. They had videos and pictures espousing the importance of the pools to everyone who lives in Dearborn. The mayor changed his mind and the pools opened. It began to look like everyone agreed the sky was blue.

SOP went one step further and showed how inflated the numbers were that estimated the costs of repairing and renovating the pools. According to a Nordstrom, Samson and Associates study, it would cost the city $1,277,700 to keep up all eight of the pools over the next five years. That’s an average of $255,540 per year. Ryan Woods of SOP gave us a more realistic version of those numbers. According to his calculations, over the next five years it would cost just $183,400, or an average of $36,680 per year.

I am no accountant, but those numbers don’t seem to add up.

Dearborn is in the hole. That, we can all agree on. The mayor believes that one solution to this problem is to close the small pools and demolish them. This year, closing three pools is estimated to save the city $75,000. Demolition costs $20,000 per pool. The sky is green.

In just a few months last year, the efforts from the city, community and SOP shaved $95,011 from the operating costs of the pools. They have identified multiple sponsorship opportunities to ease the burden on the city, and motivated hundreds of volunteers to paint fences, buildings and otherwise clean up the pools so the city didn’t have to shoulder those costs. The difference in costs from the NSA study to the SOP revisions is roughly $218,874 per year. The sky is blue.

In tough times, we are responsible to make good fiscal decisions but do what we can to preserve the treasures that make our city unique and give people reasons to move here. Blue sky.

When the residents of Dearborn have turned out to give their time and money to something that matters to them, it seems it is politically sensible to ignore it and cut the thing they fight for because it is low hanging fruit on the budget tree. Green sky.

When people are willing to put their time and energy into maintaining a city service, the city should thank them and search for more creative solutions for cuts and savings in other areas that people are willing to compromise on. Blue sky.

Don’t get me wrong, the people who work on these budgets put a ton of time and consideration into every decision, and I appreciate that. But, I think that once the residents in Dearborn have made it clear there are certain decisions they won’t stand for, it is the responsibility of our elected officials to make changes. The city must work with the residents and community groups that form out of our collective passion to create lasting solutions and not quick fixes to appease the crowd.

It is time to make our intentions clear to the city yet again and demand a blue sky. Please add your voice to the discussion and tell the city council and the mayor how you feel at the budget workshop at 5:30 p.m. May 19 in the mayor’s conference room in Dearborn City Hall, 13615 Michigan Ave.

To learn more about how you can help, join the Save Dearborn’s Small Pools group on Facebook.