After heated debate, Watertown lawmakers vote to pay for pool with savings

Thompson Park pool project

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown's Thompson Park pool project is a go and city savings will pay for it.

Monday's city council meeting was heated as lawmakers debated about how to move forward with the project.

"This is one of the things that I was elected to do and I will respect the process and I will represent the will of the people who put me here," council member Cody Horbacz said.

Council members Horbacz, Lisa Ruggiero, and Ryan Henry-Wilkinson voted in favor of using money from the city’s saving account to pay for the $3.1 million pool and bathhouse project.

Borrowing the money was not an option as it required four votes and there wasn't enough support.

“I have supported the pool when I ran for election,” Ruggiero said. "I did say that I certainly would support it and I feel that changing my vote after getting this far would not be an act of courage, it would actually an act of weakness.

“Our forefathers and our foremothers, they put up the money so that we could have nice things, so that we can have pools and other amenities,” Henry-Wilkinson said, “and I said it’s time for our generation to put up the money so that the people who come after us can have the same nice things that we had.”

Using money from what's called the fund balance has some officials as well as residents worried about the city's credit rating.

Some city workers say the rating will take a hit now that lawmakers have decided to pull so much money from savings.

"Don't put our future leaders in a position to have to raise taxes, replenish the fund balance and knowing the damage you're going to do, to vote on a luxury project like the pool whether you want it or not, whether you got the nostalgia going for you or not," Mayor Joe Butler said. "It's the most reckless and irresponsible fiscal decision that I have ever witnessed."

Sarah Compo/ "I think we have a responsibility to ask ourselves 'would I do this with my own money,' for me, the short answer is no," council member Sarah Compo said. "I would not use my personal emergency fund to pay for a luxury item like a pool and damage my credit score."

There was another 3-to-2 vote to accept bids for the project.

In total, $2.9 million will be used to pay for the project along with expected grant money.

Construction is expected to begin in the fall.

In other matters, council members unanimously agreed to sell a property back to a Watertown man.

Thomas Chiarelly lost his High Street home earlier this year after falling behind on property taxes.

Chiarelly gave the city a formal purchase offer to buy back his home. The offer is for about $4,500, the amount he owed in taxes.

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