More to say on Budlong

Posted 9/20/23

To the editor,

After reading last week’s article about the continuing Budlong Pool saga, I wanted to make some corrections and clarifications to the Mayor’s error-filled presentation …

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More to say on Budlong


To the editor,

After reading last week’s article about the continuing Budlong Pool saga, I wanted to make some corrections and clarifications to the Mayor’s error-filled presentation at the 9/6 forum, focusing on the false and/or misleading statements from the forum that are repeated in the article.

  • The Mayor characterizes a $200,000 liner that was installed in the pool in 2018 as a well-intentioned, but misguided decision by Tony Liberatore, the then head of Parks and Recreation. City documents show that this major expenditure—which was intended to reduce annual maintenance costs--was approved by the highest levels of the Fung administration, and that the liner has a 15 year full warranty and an average repair-free life expectancy of 30 to 40 year.  The records contain no evidence that the liner has failed. 
  • The Mayor said that he spoke to Parks and Rec director Tessaglia in March, 2021 about re-opening the pool. Internal documents show the administration did not look into reopening the pool until June, 2021, in response to a request from Council President Marino.  At that time, Chief of Staff Moretti told the Council the pool could not be re-opened because the Mayor had not included any money for it in the budget.  Moretti also told the Council that the administration had determined it could not use ARPA funds for the pool, though he and other administration officials discussed in emails their decision not to use ARPA funds to develop their plans to replace the pool, because that would require Council approval.
  • The Mayor also refers to an estimate the administration received in June, 2021 that the pool could be reopened at a cost of less than $90,000. (The source of that estimate was NE Aquatics, the company that had been servicing the pool for over a decade and was very familiar with the pool’s condition.)  The Mayor stated that this estimate did not include extensive work which, he falsely implies, was needed at that time on the motors, pump house, and filters.   But, in June, 2021, Mr. Moretti stated in an email to Councilor Donegan that the only work needed was $10,000 in repairs to the pool deck, and that the pool would have to be filled before the pump and filter could be switched on and they could see if there were any issues with them.  Those systems have not been turned on since the pool was last open in 2019.
  • The Mayor described receiving a letter from Saccoccio and Associates in September, 2022 regarding conceptual pool designs, as if this somehow materialized out of thin air. He skips over the fact that before that, in January, 2022 the City was in talks with the Federal Hill Group, which it hired in February, 2022, for $13,875, to provide preliminary designs for a new pool, splash pad, children’s playground and adult fitness area for the Budlong Complex.  The FHG delivered its report in April, 2022.  The Mayor has tried to erase this chapter, even scrubbing the report from the City’s website, because it inconveniently stated that fixing the pool would be quicker and cheaper than replacing it.  That and the NE Aquatics estimate were the only information the administration had when it hired Saccoccio first to produce conceptual designs, and then (for $350,000) to oversee production of final plans for his Budlong make-over, with Westin & Sampson performing the lion’s share of the work as the architect and engineer for the new pool.

The article provides a lengthy summary of the pool’s condition as reported by Mark Mariano, the head of the aquatics division of Weston & Sampson.  The article does not mention that at the 9/6 meeting, Mr. Liberatore flatly refuted the most significant concern raised by Mr. Mariano—that the pool was leaking massive amounts of water when it was last open, or that Mr. Mariano admitted that he based that claim entirely on a conversation with an unidentified source—and not on any firsthand observation or testing.   (Mr. Liberatore also noted that a pump was installed to keep ground-water from displacing the pool liner and has elsewhere noted other inaccuracies, such as the claim that the pool does not have federally-compliant pool drains.)  The article suggests that any concerns about Mr. Mariano’s objectivity was put to rest by the fact that he confirmed his company would not be doing the actual construction of the pool, just designing it.   But, the fact that Mr. Mariano’s company is being paid a significant amount by the City to design the Mayor’s new pool (and has another, bigger contract with the City to work on its comprehensive plan) is reason enough not to rely solely on his advice.

The story of the Budlong Pool since 2021 has been a story of government dysfunction and incompetence, and contempt for Cranston residents.  A decision this financially and civically consequential should never have been handled this way, with the constant inaccurate and misleading representations by the administration, the withholding of information from the Council, the covert planning and lack of community input, and finally the effort to force through a plan in the face of widespread community opposition.

What we have been saying all along is simple and remains true.  The people of Cranston—who overwhelmingly do not want to see the Budlong pool destroyed or replaced by a small pool designed primarily for small children—deserve information and answers.   At minimum, there should be an evaluation of the pool’s condition by a disinterested expert with a detailed explanation of the costs involved in restoring the pool and giving it a reasonable life expectancy.  If restoring the existing pool is cost-prohibitive, there should be estimates for the range of costs for replacing it with pools of various sizes—from something comparable to the size of the existing pool to smaller versions.  And, comparisons of plans should take into account associated costs and benefits of various options.  For example, the $3.5 million cost estimate for the Mayor’s pool does not take into account the cost of the other amenities which he plans to install alongside it.  Nor have discussions taken into account the economic, social and health benefits of a larger pool that, among other things, serves the City’s camps and provides a healthy and safe social outlet as well as vocational training and employment for Cranston teens.

Karen Rosenberg

letter, mail, Budlong, pool


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  • jcgabri333

    I think it's time to draw a line in the cement....similar to the big yellow one that separated the "kiddie area, non swimmers" of the Budlong Pool and the "adult size, swimmers only" part.

    That line should represent everything done UP UNTIL THIS POINT....which, could be debated forever.

    Rather than uprise, let's apprise...

    Weston & Sampson seems to be an EXTREMELY reputable company. I encourage everyone to look at their website: https://www.westonandsampson.com/. I would suggest that a comparable organization would ultimately deduce to the same outcomes as it relates to current state. So why take on the extra expense...and just as importantly, the extra TIME.

    The bottom line is that it's been 4 years-plus since the last time someone jumped into that pool on a hot summer day. A proposal has been made....by extremely reputable experts. It's a damn good proposal. The historical math about pool attendance has shown that there should be no concerns about crowding, despite the smaller pool. Regarding the "Smaller Pool", it' still would be one of the biggest public pools in New England.

    Let's get it done.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2023 Report this