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Alice council votes to close controversial natatorium

Posted at 6:00 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 19:20:06-05

ALICE, Texas — The Alice City Council finally pulled the plug on the city's indoor natatorium.

The pool had been a source of controversy there since it opened in 2016. The reported $14 million price tag, location, and a lack of a public referendum to build it are just some of the complaints Alice residents have.

The city had hoped Alice ISD would take over the natatorium, and the two sides were seemingly close to a deal. However, that deal fell apart, potentially closing the multimillion-dollar facility for good.

“We were pretty much at a point where we felt good about it,” said Alice ISD Superintendent Dr. Carl Scarborough.

Scarborough said he and Alice City Manager Michael Esparza were close to working out a deal which would have allowed the school district to lease the pool from the city for $59,900 a year. However, while the district was on Thanksgiving break, the city council rejected the deal, and ordered the city manager to negotiate a $100,00 a year lease.

“Once we heard that it was going to be $100,000, we knew it was going to be a stretch," Scarborough said.

Because the city and the school district hadn’t reached a deal, the council voted to close the natatorium, and drain the pool.

“We didn't receive back from Alice ISD, and it wasn't put back on the agenda to renegotiate, or counteroffer,” said Alice Mayor Jolene Vanover.

Scarborough says he heard about the council’s decision, but claims that Alice ISD didn’t receive the council’s counteroffer until three-and-a-half hours before Tuesday’s meeting. Meanwhile, the school board held its meeting eight days earlier.

“Without a contract in front of us, anything official, we did not put it on the board agenda for the 9th," he said. "It was too quick of a turnaround.”

That leaves the City of Alice wondering how to cure its multimillion-dollar headache.

“This has been in discussion for a very long time,” said Vanover. “What to do with the facility, where to go from here?”

Scarborough says he's still hopeful the sides can work out a deal, but not if the city insists on $100,000 a year. Meanwhile, Vanover says that an outdoor water park, which is part of the natatorium complex, will stay open on a seasonal basis.