WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The long awaited and much debated Thompson Park pool project in Watertown has officially begun.
Shovels are in the ground at Thompson Park, ceremonially marking the beginning of the pool and bathhouse project coming to fruition.
"This is a great day for Watertown," said Cody Horbacz, city council member. "We made an investment here in the park that will be around for generations to come. Folks of all ages and abilities will be able to use it. It's like nothing else that we have in the city."
City council joined by Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, who advocated for the pool during his time on city council, did the honors.
The $3.1 million project includes building a pool accessible to people with disabilities and a year-round bathhouse, replacing the broken down pool that closed in 2013.
The project had been much debated, with only 3 council members voting to dip into the city's savings to pay for the project.
Mayor Joe Butler did not support the project, but said he was there to support it Friday.
Horbacz was one of the council members who did support the pool, fighting for it for years.
"It's been a long road to get here. It wasn't easy, but we persevered. We fought through adversity and we made this day happen. So I'm just really excited and really grateful for all the folks that supported the effort," he said.
A number of supporters came to witness the ground breaking. Debbie Dermady and her husband have been big supporters of the project. She, along with kids from the community, painted rocks and placed them around the park and downtown Watertown to drum up support from the community.
“I’ve been thinking about the kids in the community who really can’t afford to vacation in cottages, can’t afford to go to places that cost money so they need this pool and our families need this pool,” said Dermady. “We also want to make it a destination place. It’ll be great if people from out of town can come to the park and there’s so many amenities here. We have the playground, we have the zoo and now we have our pool back and it means a lot to us.”
The pool has also been a topic of debate among candidates running for city office, with some not supporting it.
Council Member Lisa Ruggiero cautioned against any attempt to stop the project when a new council is seated in January.
"This is definitely going to be moving forward and I think that having the ground breaking today is just that - it's showing the start of the project and that it is taking place. It is happening," she said.
Ruggiero says construction crews will be getting to work on Monday. The project is expected to be completed by mid-July of next year.