Hemlock Pool tax voted down

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Hemlock Park Pool is not scheduled to open after park-area residents rejected a 10-year proposal to pay for operational costs for a new pool in the Aug. 7 primary election.

Residents voted 369-117 against the proposal, for which residents would have been taxed about $70 a year for 10 years.

Nearly 2,000 ballots were sent out to homeowners within a square mile of the park and 25 percent of those residents voted.

The new pool would have included a new L-shaped design for up to 225 people and a new bath house.

A west Dearborn group named “Save Our Pools” created a petition campaign this year requesting that neighborhood residents vote on reopening the pool while taking on the financial responsible for its redesign and modernization, costing about $1.3 million.

City Attorney Debra Walling said she was disappointed with the low voter turnout.

“The city made a lot of effort and went through a lot … to mail out the ballots,” Walling said. “The outcome is up to neighbors in the neighborhood … but we are always striving to get as much citizen participation, not only voting but in general.”

A June 26 Hemlock Special Assessment District Public Education meeting was held to educate residents about the pool.

Hemlock Pool and Whitmore-Bolles Pool were closed because of low usage and poor conditions after the 2010 summer season in an attempt to save money.

City Clerk Kathleen Buda, who tabulated the votes and kept the votes discreet, said she was disappointed in the low turnout.

“I thought there would be more ‘yes’ votes,” Buda said. “It is apathy.”

Dearborn Recreation Commissioner Margaret Green, a former Outdoor Pool Committee member, said she is saddened by the election results.

“Hemlock area has a lot of rental properties and while I think it would be very good for the pool to remain open, it doesn’t surprise me that landlords don’t want to pay this,” Green said. “It is also still an economically depressed area, and … many people are on a fixed income and don’t have the extra money.”

Green said she hoped the voters would vote to keep open the pool because of the youth.

“The youth in this neighborhood have been without a pool and really need one to give them some place to go, some place to hang out with friends that is wholesome,” Green said.

Dearborn resident and Save Our Pools member Ryan Woods said residents would not want to pay money to keep a pool open when the pool closes shortly after residents get home.

“The pool closes at 6 p.m., residents get off of work at 5 p.m.” Woods said, adding that the city had no intention of changing the pool’s hours. “We put a plan together to appease what the city wanted and we came up with solution for the needs of residents.”

The Save Our Pools group spoke publicly about its desire to pursue a citywide millage to reopen Hemlock. In the SOP plan, the estimated yearly cost to maintain Hemlock Pool would be $30 to $40 a year for residents.

“Everyone is taxed evenly across the board and can use any pool,” Woods said.

Woods added that the future of the pool is in the hands of the residents.

“Residents can come up with a petition and the petition would need 3,000 signatures,” Woods said.

City Spokesperson Mary Laundroche said there are no immediate plans to do anything with the pool.

“The city will not be moving forward with any plans to demolish the site,” Laundroche said.

Recreation and Parks Director Greg Orner said although there are no immediate plans for the pool’s demolition, the city set aside budgeted dollars.

“In case they move in that direction the city has approximately $20,000 budgeted,” Orner said. “The city will get some scrap value for the aluminum (pool siding) so there should be some dollars coming back to the city.”

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)

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