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Quality of Life Bond project over budget; City Rep. Noe fights for East Side pool

The City of El Paso underestimated the cost of a major project approved by voters in the 2012 Quality of Life Bond.

Voters approved paying for an $8 million competition pool complex next to the current Leo Cancellere pool in West El Paso off of Wallenberg Drive.

On Monday, city employees and the hired architect, William Helm, with firm Insitu told the Council the project needed $13.6 million, a more than 50% increase.

This upset city representative Michiel Noe who’s eastside district is also in line for a voter-approved 50-meter competition pool.

“It went from 8 million to over 13 million. I mean my budget hasn’t gone up one cent. But suddenly the other one has almost doubled. Yeah. Typical El Paso politics,” said Noe.

Noe said the $8 million Westside facility was supposed to be a regular practice pool while the $16 million facility in his district was meant to be the pool for major competitions. The City Attorney told Noe both pools were described as competition pools in the quality of life ordinance.

The architect said plans for the 50-meter Westside pool haven’t changed but the specifications by the City require more than the original $8 million. In an interview after the meeting, the City’s Parks and Recreation Director, Tracy Novak, said city employees underestimated the price in 2012 because they didn’t do the proper analysis.

Noe said the swimming community won’t say it publicly but they prefer this over-budget westside pool and there aren’t enough swimmers in the city to support both that one and the eastside pool. “There are members of the swimming community that think the eastside shouldn’t have a pool and they’ve made that very clear to me. They said it’s a stupid idea. I’ve also been told that the swimming community will come out in mass to try to get me not to be reelected if I don’t support giving my pool to them and I will not support that. If I don’t fight this, I dont’ deserve to be reelected.”

Several parents of swimmers spoke at the meeting supporting both pools and contending they had warned the City before that the $8 million was not enough. They said there is enough demand to utilize both pools because they’re not identical.

“I think he (Noe) perhaps feel a little fearful that once one facility is built that the community will desert him and that we will not support him to get his facility built and that’s not the case,” said Leann Carr, a Coach for El Paso Aqua Posse.

Novak asked council to approve moving funds from two other parks to fund this pool, plus take out two million dollars in debt that would be paid back through city revenue. The Council postponed the issue- asking city employees to find a way to reduce the cost of the pool. Novak said they may be able to shave off one million dollars from the $13.6 million but it’d be impossible to drive the cost down to the original $8 million.

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