Former sheriff wants public pools back
Charles Wilson, who served as sheriff for St. Charles Parish in the 80's, says a public pool would be unique to the area since it is something that no other river parish has to offer. It would also be a recreational activity that everyone could afford.
"I know that pools in the 70's were closed in places all over the country to avoid allowing both blacks and whites to swim together, but times have changed and things are different now," he said. "I'm not sure what the cost would incur to open two public pools, but I do believe it's a good idea, and that's why I went before the council."
Wilson addressed the council at its March 24 meeting. The decision to close public swimming pools to avoid integration was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1971 for cities all across the nation.
"If we can't get two pools, maybe we can at least get the parish to build at least one and restrict it of course to St. Charles Parish residents only," Wilson said. "I know a lot of people living along the river never learned how to swim, because growing up it was too dangerous to allow kids to swim around the levee."
Wilson believes that public pools will provide a fun activity geared towards keeping children out of trouble.
"The pool will give kids something to do over the summer," he said. "I believe St. Charles Parish schools partner with the country clubs to use their pools for their swim teams. I think the parish should get together with the school system and make the investment into building a public facility."
Wilson says the most important chemical needed to maintain the pools would be chlorine and that's produced right here in the parish.
"Occidental Chemical Plant manufactures chlorine and I think the council should consider talking to them to see what they could do to help with providing the chlorine needed to clean the pools."
There are six country clubs that are open to the public for swimming. However, fees are collected in advance for each family that wants to use the facility.
The Ormond Country Club has a $500 registration fee per family. The monthly fee is $60 from May to September then $25 monthly from October to April.
At Willowdale Country club, families must pay $395 to swim at the pool or $425 for full club membership.
Hill Heights membership fees for swimming is a $150 registration fee, plus a $250 stock option fee. Hill Heights members also own stock in the club.
Three other clubs, Sun Villa, Mimosa and Ellington, also have swimming pools for use by members.
Wilson says there would be a fee collected at the public pools so it wouldn't be entirely free.
Paul Centanni, manager of Hill Heights Fitness Club and Pool in Destrehan, says he thinks a public swimming facility is an excellent idea and wouldn't harm his business in anyway.
"They should have done it 20 years ago," he said. "There's plenty of room in the parish for this pool and I think it's a great idea."
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