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Tuesday December 12th 2017

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COMMENTARY Saving the Phillips Pool to Save Lives

By State Senator Jeff Hayden

Minneapolis “The City of Lakes.” Minnesota “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Behind all those images of sky blue sparkling waters, there is a startling fact:

Minnesota has the highest drowning rate among African-Americans in U.S. The drowning rate for Native Americans is third highest in U.S.

One reason is the lack of opportunities for inner city youth and adults to learn how to swim. In fact, the only free indoor public swimming pool in the city of Mpls. is at the Phillips Community Center and the only pool in the Phillips community. Unfortunately, the pool has been closed since Boys and Girls Clubs lease ended in 2008.

The Mpls. Park and Rec. Dept. planned to infill with dirt and cap with concrete in 2010. Thanks to an outpouring of support from the community and advocacy from interested organizations, the pool was saved from demolition. However, before the pool can be reopened to the public, it needs extensive renovations.

I’m carrying a bill in the Senate, with Rep. Karen Clark in the House, to renovate the Phillips Pool using $2.1 million from the state’s capital investment budget. The proposal was in Gov. Dayton’s bonding request, and is currently included in the House version.

The funds would pay for the pool’s renovation, repairing decking, adding starting blocks,  diving board, timing system scoreboard and an addition added for a wading pool and family locker rooms.

There’s been powerful support from the community and from local and state institutions. These include Mpls. Swims, the MN Chap. of USA Swimming, the Indian Health Board, Little Earth of United Tribes, the Mpls. Public Health Advisory Committee, the Roy Wilkins Center at the U of M’s Hubert H. Humphrey School, and Augsburg College.

Before funding can happen, it has to pass the House and Senate and included in the conference committee report before final votes in both chambers. That’s a lot of steps, but so far, the signs have been encouraging.

Teaching our kids to swim can save their lives. Kids who swim also do better in the classroom, and kids who are involved in positive activity outside of school – like swimming – are less likely to engage in risky behavior.

And who knows – someday we might be cheering on an Olympian who learned their skills at the Phillips Pool.

[BULLETIN: at Alley’s Press time Thursday March 29th: a MN Senate committee has approved a bonding bill anticipated to be considered by the full Senate on March 30th; including $1.7 million for Phillips Pool and Gym.] 

 

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