Thomas Park Pool facing closure in proposed budget

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) -- The City of College Station is explaining how they plan to spend your tax dollars for the next year. In the proposed 2019 budget, the city says it will use more than $12 million for park improvements and repairs.

The proposed budget also lays out plans to add a splash pad to Thomas Park, requiring the pool to close. The city plans to add amenities to existing parks in the area, but Thomas Park is the only park in College Station with a facility being closed. Residents say they want it to stay open.

"It's a little bit of a soft spot in our heart in College Station," said Heather Lewis.

Lewis and her kids have used Thomas Park Pool for 16 years. She believes it's unlike any of the other pools in the area.

"It's not overwhelming. It's a nice group, but it's not so over-populated that kids are jumping on top of you," Lewis said.

The College Station Parks and Recreation Department said the pool needs significant repairs. They've suggested replacing the aging pool with a splash pad, but they're waiting on the city council to sign off on a budget that tells them what's next.

"I'm surprised, of course, and I think the city could cut a lot of other ways besides Thomas Park. It's used by everybody," said Thelma Isenhart.

Isenhart has lived in the neighborhood near Thomas Park for nearly 30 years. She raised her kids at the pool, but she knows the pool is for more than just kids.

"This is an older neighborhood, so there's a lot of older people that live here that wouldn't use the splash pad, where they would use the pool," Isenhart explained.

City officials said the programs and lessons held at Thomas Park Pool will be relocated to Hallaran and Adamson Lagoon pool. Building a new pool at Thomas Park would mean an extra price tag of more than a million dollars for the project, plus $150,000 each year to operate.

The proposed 2019 College Station budget also includes upgrades to many park facilities, the completion of synthetic fields at Veterans Park and the first phase of construction at Southeast Community Park. That phase will include eight baseball and softball fields, parking, lighting, restrooms, a picnic pavilion, batting cages and park amenities. Southeast Community Park is located on Rock Prairie Road between Bird Pond Road and William D. Fitch Parkway, near the former BVSWMA landfill. The city plans to pay for the development of Southwest Community Park through a combination of hotel occupancy taxes and the issuance of debt through certificates of obligation.