Islip Town pools set to close may be fixed

Swimmers splash and play on a beautiful summer Swimmers splash and play on a beautiful summer day at the Brentwood Timberline Pool in Brentwood on a Sunday. (July 10, 2011) Photo Credit: Photo by Charles Eckert

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Two Islip Town pools slated for closure this summer could be back in the swim, town officials said Thursday.

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood received a $300,000 grant through the town's Community Development Agency, which will pay for scores of repairs to the aging facility and its pool. A similar grant for repairs at the Casamento Park pool in West Islip is pending, town officials said.

The grants are to be used for capital improvements -- still leaving the town without operational funding. But town officials say they are seeking to partner with a private group to shoulder responsibility for operating the pools.

Absent a public-private partnership, Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr. said the town is looking for money in its general fund.

Town officials defunded the crumbling pools amid a $26 million budget deficit that triggered a 28 percent tax hike.

"It's very important for the kids and the families," Cochrane said. "We're looking at every way we can to find funding sources to get these assets open for the community."

The move led to a months-long community outcry from many in the Brentwood and Bay Shore areas -- who for generations have spent summers at the pools. Residents crowded town board meetings to voice concern, questioning why the two pools in lower income communities were targeted.

Renee Ortiz, a community activist who has rallied against the closures, said Thursday that the grant was a "good step," but added, "there's still a lot of . . . unanswered questions."

Ortiz, who sits on the Community Development Agency board, said town officials have not been transparent about the reasoning for closing the pools and plans for funding operations. She said the town has ignored her request for a list of needed pool repairs.

Roberto Clemente pool, originally Timberline pool, opened in 1981 and needs a new pumping and filtration system, town officials said.

Councilman Anthony S. Senft Jr. said he's "hopeful" the pools open this summer.

"We encourage a private partner to come in," said Senft, who said he envisions a private company or a YMCA or Boys & Girls Club. "Government is not the best at operating a pool. Others can do it more efficiently and less expensively."

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