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TONAWANDA TO ASK WAIVERS ON 2 POOLS HEALTH OFFICIAL SAYS CITY WILL GET PERMITS TO KEEP WADING SITES OPEN, IF IT APPLIES

The City of Tonawanda plans to apply for a waiver to keep two antiquated wading pools open this summer.

The two are among four community wading pools -- Kohler, Fletcher, Niagara and Ives Pond -- designated to close by Erie County Health Department authorities because they did not meet state health and safety standards. Tuesday night city officials said Fletcher and Ives Pond probably would remain open.

During a City Council work session Tuesday, lawmakers were told by a county Health Department official that all they had to do was apply for the waiver and it would be awarded.

"I think if you want to open these pools, I don't see a problem with that," said John Kociela, director of environmental health.

Pool deficiencies include a lack of filtration systems, chlorination and pH controls, bathrooms, fencing, telephones and posted regulations. The Health Department, realizing the need for wading pools in a riverside community, had granted a waiver last summer.

Because of budget constraints, the Council decided to keep just two pools open.

"We intend to monitor the usage this season," Council President John Lawrence said. Rehabilitation or reconstruction of the pools would depend on how often they are used, he added.

Kociela told Council members that, for the waiver to be granted this summer, three requirements must be met: the pools should be filled and emptied daily; an emergency communication system should be set up; and an adult should supervise children when the pools are open.

If those requests are met, "I'm sure we would look at it (waiver request) very favorably," Kociela told lawmakers.

Pressured by residents calling for the pools to remain open, the Council last week said it would ask for a waiver for three of the four city-owned pools, which are more than 25 years old.

Lawmakers also said they would proceed with plans to spend $68,775 to build one large centralized wading pool next to the Kohler Municipal Pool at 291 Kohler St. A state grant would finance $50,000 of the project.

Chuck Komasara, organizer of a group called Citizens Right on Pools, said he is pleased by the latest developments but worried about the future of the wading pools.

"I'm going to be happier if they find money next year," said Komasara, whose group has collected petitions with 1,634 signatures from people who want the pools to remain open.

Kociela, who said the Health Department does not like to grant waivers, cautioned lawmakers not to expect another waiver next summer.

"I would hope that this would be the end of it," he said when questioned by Alderman William D. Sheldon about the chances of another waiver. "I think if it came to another year I would have to say, 'Hey -- stop . . . we're playing games.' "

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