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City's kids feeling hot and dissed.

Byline: Clive McFarlane

COLUMN: CLIVE MCFARLANE

Times are hard, but every now and then you get the feeling that the city is making it harder than it has to be.

How can you feel otherwise when you see inner-city kids and their parents, stalked by summer's hard glare, waiting and wilting in lines, sometimes up to hours, to get into the two state-operated pools, the only public pools that are open in the city this summer.

Was it really a surprise to anyone that the Shine Pool on Providence Street had to be closed for the day July 28 when a major brawl erupted among young people waiting in line, requiring police to make several arrests?

"It was a real chaotic scene," said Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst, a police spokesman.

"There was a lot of fighting, a lot of arguing."

Cathy Waters, who had family members at the pool that day, said pepper spray had to be used to bring the brawl under control.

"That is what happens when you have 50 people waiting outside in 85-degree weather," she said.

"Everybody got bad tempered. What I cannot understand is why they had to close the pool down for the day. The majority of the people there were not fighting or arguing."

Sixteen-year-old Patricia Fesand waited more than an hour recently to get into the Shine pool. She stayed in line that long only because she had six younger family members, including an 8-year-old cousin with her.

"I am glad we weren't there when the brawl broke out and the Mace was being used," she said.

According to Anne Roche, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Shine Pool, as well as the Bennett Pool, the other state pool, each has the capacity to serve 225 people if the nine-person staff at each works the same shift.

However, the staff works in staggered shifts so the number of people allowed into the pool area each day fluctuates.

Dan Ford, whose wife and son have used the pool, said that on some days only 100 people are being allowed into the Shine Pool.

"You have half of Worcester going up to the pool and they don't have enough lifeguards to reach full capacity," he said.

"So we are leaving little kids to wait and sweat it out in line without knowing when they are going to get in, because there is no regulation on how long you can stay inside."

After visiting the newly renovated Shine Pool Monday, I can see why it is a magnet for young people and their parents.

Attractions include the 190,000-gallon pool boasts a water slide, a wading pool and a water sprinkler.

The Shine Pool is a great addition to the city's summer recreational scene. While some of the issues parents and their kids are experiencing there might be caused by some operational procedures, the major problem is the local city government's dissing of inner-city children and their families.

How can you feel otherwise, when the city plunked down $4 million, in local, state and federal funds, into building an ice skating rink behind City Hall, while allowing neighborhood pools to deteriorate to the point that they were all closed this year.

Half the amount that went into building the skating rink could have been used to keep at least three or four city pools open this summer, and thus greatly reducing the demand that is raising tempers at the state's swimming pools.

Don't tell me about the city manager's $224,000 Wheels to Water program, which supposedly is ferrying kids to local beaches and some private pools.

Yes, the program is an alliterative marvel in name, but clearly a flat liner like most ideas coming out of City Hall these days.

Or will they tell us that the large number of kids finding their way to the two state pools only to wait in line for hours in the blazing sun is happening because "We're a victim of our own success."

That is what they told us when the city lost out on stimulus money for sewer projects and on a federal grant for police officers.

Perhaps, City Hall is being honest with us for the first time in a long while, because the "victim of our own success" claim only makes sense if the administration's intention is to run the city into the ground.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 5, 2009
Words:735
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