Here we are facing another hot summer, and here we are watching the youngsters of East St. Louis and Belleville go without a public pool or splash pad.
The East St. Louis Park District is again scrambling to find $10,000 to open the splash pad at Jones Park. Director Irma Golliday said the state budget impasse is to blame, along with the lack of grants from charities or others. (Hmmm. That’s about the monthly payment on the AmEx card of East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton.)
She said it typically takes $70,000 to open the splash pad and run a summer camp for the city’s youngsters. There is no hope of getting the $60,000 to pay camp counselors, so she is trying at the 11th hour to get 20 AmeriCorps volunteers to staff the camp. If that happens, she can likely open the splash pad and already has the state permit to do so.
But in Belleville?
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The Belleville Swimming Pool last cooled youngsters in 2011. It was demolished in January 2015 and is now a grassy stretch.
The grand plans for a partnership with a college or hospital or other private entity have not materialized. The closest there has been to a City Council conversation about a pool in recent history was when the city discussed a park foundation that could maybe someday be a way to raise donations for a pool.
So why doesn’t a city of 42,032 have the resources to provide a pool for its residents when the village of Freeburg, with one-tenth the population, can support a pool? The pool commitment is also alive in Millstadt, Collinsville, O’Fallon, New Baden, Highland, Mascoutah and Granite City.
Granite City’s pool in Wilson Park last week was where an alert teen lifeguard pulled out a drowning 3-year-old boy and revived him. We never learned the lifeguard’s name, but there are a lot of people grateful that the lifeguard was focused and ready.
It would be nice to see Belleville’s leaders focused on this issue and ready to do something, even build a splash pad like Swansea did. It would also be nice if someone came forward and saved the children of East St. Louis from staring through the fence at an idle splash pad.