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Repairs at Ascarate pool create concern for competitive swimmers

El Paso County commissioners approved a contract for $776,000 in repairs and renovations to three county pools Monday. The work to the Ascarate, Fabens and Canutillo pools will now be undertaken by Black Stallion Contractors. The public works department reports that the Ascarate pool might not make it through the season without the work.

“The issue is the repairs are necessary,” said Public Works Director Pad Adauto. “They were necessary last season. And we babied them so that we didn’t have to close the pool. But towards the end of the season we were having problems. So this cannot be delayed another year or another season. It needs to happen now.”

The public works department and county commissioners agreed that the Ascarate pool has to be worked on before the general season starts Memorial Day weekend. The filter system is old enough that replacement parts aren’t available any more, and a custom refit must be done to make it all work.

But swim teams that contract to use the pool say that work could scuttle the start of their season.

“Waiting to do this until late April and early May is really shooting themselves in the foot in being able to open on time,” said LeAnn Carr, head age group coach for El Paso Aqua Posse swim team, “for any of their facilities, not just Ascarate, which is the one that we’re so concerned about.

County officials said they went through the budget and bidding process as quickly as they could. But that could leave this local swim team with high hopes high and dry instead.

El Paso has a relatively small but fiercely competitive swimming community, and space is a premium to ensure regular practices. And with Olympic trials on the line later this season, they told commissioners Monday time is of the essence.

“We need every possible chance, and every possible minute in that water,” said Emma Carr, a competitive swimmer and daughter of LeAnn. “And we don’t even have the support of our city. And if we don’t have the support of our county, what’s the point? Why are we even supporting ourselves?”

Emma Carr said she’s been swimming since she was three, and that she’s been training with teammates on the Aqua Posse since many of them were about eight. With the Olympic trials coming up in Arizona at the end of May, their coach argued swimming isn’t a sport you can take a break from if you want to stay competitive.

“How hard it is, if you’re out for a day, you feel terrible,” LeAnn Carr said. “If you’re out for a week, you’ve been set back a month. If you’re out for two weeks, you might as well as give up and go home for the season. And that’s what we’re talking about.”

Carr and other coaches and competitors with the Aqua Posse said that the repairs at the Ascarate pool could prevent them from being able to practice. In previous years, the team has contracted with the county starting in early May for use of the pool for practice, ahead of the general public swim season opening there Memorial Day weekend.

Overall, there are four Olympic-sized 50-meter lane pools in the El Paso area, which Carr said is ideal for the type of competition at the Olympic trials. Besides Ascarate, there’s the Ft. Bliss Aquatics Training Center, the Pavo Real Recreation Center pool, and the New Mexico State University activity center pool in Las Cruces.

But with the Ft. Bliss pool unavailable for civilian team practice, and city leagues taking over pools like Pavo Real May 9, the Aqua Posse is now having to look to NMSU or wherever they can to try and keep this season alive.

“We all work together and we all support each other,” Emma Carr said. “I think we all just wanted to try to make nationals and wanted to have that moment. And one of the girls is a senior. She’s leaving. And we’re not going to have that moment again.”

County Judge Veronica Escobar said that since commissioners have approved the contract, the county can work with the contractor to focus on Ascarate and get it done as soon as possible. In the meantime though, the team is basically looking for any place to practice, Olympic-sized or not. To contact them and for more information, you can go to their website or call LeAnn Carr at 915-731-2625.

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