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Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

East Prairie ready to dive into pool

Friday, June 22, 2007

(Photo)
East Prairei Pool life guards Jessica Hubbard, Cynthia Cook, Kelly Walton and Jason Lay cool off in the town's new pool.
EAST PRAIRIE -- It's not uncommon for people to drive to the E.C. Davis Park to watch the construction on the city's new pool.

"You can go over there and spend 30 minutes and I almost assure you there will be 10 vehicles to stop and see what's going on," said Lonnie Thurmond, city administrator.

"It was long overdue," said Ricky Penrod, who was on the Park Board when a tax was passed to fund the pool, and was instrumental in informing people why it was needed. "I'm just tickled to death it's finally done."

After several summers without a city pool, East Prairie residents will finally get to splash around in a municipal pool again this weekend. The pool's grand opening is at 1 p.m. Saturday, and the pool will remain open until 5 p.m.

"We just want everybody to be there and enjoy the pool from day one," said Mayor Gene Ditto.

The former pool, which was built in the 1950s, closed in 2001. "It got to the point where it was leaking more water than we could pump into it," Ditto said.

An engineer looked at the pool, and recommended it be shut down. "He said it would have been more money to repair it than it would be to come in and put in a new facility that will last a lot longer," Thurmond said.

So several officials and concerned citizens got together and decided to run a campaign to pass a half-cent sales tax to build a new pool. After a recount, the measure won, by just a few votes. Six years later, the work has paid off and there is a new pool.

The facility's bathhouse was renovated, with local contractors adding a new roof, plumbing and painting it, Thurmond said. There are vending machines and a snack area, too.

Two pools are on the property. A small wading pool is 18 inches deep and has spray water features. Another, larger pool is split in two sections. One side is for swimming, and other is designed to play sports such as volleyball and basketball. There is no diving board, but a 15-foot tube slide is ordered and expected to be in place at the beginning of July.

The pool isn't long enough for a swim team, Thurmond said.

The pool will employ five certified lifeguards and a pool manager as well. Ditto and Thurmond agreed East Prairie has lost a lot by not having a pool the past six years.

"Children need those kinds of areas to entertain themselves while school is out and we'll be able to provide that service for them," Ditto said. "I wish we would never have had to close our other pool down."

Penrod agreed. "I just feel like we need it for the kids -- it's not a moneymaker for the city."

The pool is intended for health, sport and leisure. "There were a lot of plans, and this one seemed to allow us to service the community as a whole," Thurmond said. He would like to see a water arthritis class begin there, he said.

Until Saturday, the anticipation for the pool's opening will stay. "We're really, really excited about it," Thurmond said. "This seems to be in the air."

The East Prairie pool is open for three-hour sessions twice a day Tuesday through Saturday. Sessions begin at noon and at 3:30 and admission is $3 per person. The pool will remain open until 5 p.m.

There will also be a four-hour session on Sundays, from 1 to 5 p.m.

Parties can be scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m.

Mornings are reserved for groups, such as summer school, daycare and the nursing home to rent the pool.