Sweating it out


It has been hot — asphalt-boiling, rubber-sole-melting hot. Thermometer readings have topped 90 so many times this summer, the 76ers ought to be jealous.

Despite the heat, it is no mirage that a couple of South Philly public pools never opened this summer.

The popular Barry Pool, 18th and Bigler streets, and Murphy Pool, Fourth and Shunk, have been closed this season pending repairs. This has frustrated parents whose children use the pools and who were told months ago that the facilities would be open by Memorial Day.

Cindy Pierandozzi, a mother of four from the 1100 block of Jackson Street, had expected to enroll her three daughters in swim lessons at Barry this summer, as she had the past two years.

While her children have found some relief from the heat wading in a small pool their mother set up in the backyard, Pierandozzi said she still cannot get anyone with the city to tell her if Barry will open at all this summer.

A call to Council President Anna Verna’s office referred her to the Department of Recreation, which manages all of the city’s public pools. Someone there told Pierandozzi that Barry Pool would be open by July 10, she said.

That date passed and the pool remained empty.

"The bother is we haven’t been given a straight answer," she said. "That’s what bothers me the most. And I know I’m not alone."

Other parents whose children use the pools share Pierandozzi’s sentiments.

Judy Conte, a mother of two from the 3100 block of Boise Place, noted that it’s a particularly bad summer to have the pools closed, considering the tremendous heat.

"It’s a sin," she said.

Jessica Staunton, 9, and her sister Jacquelynn, 6, go to Barry Playground for camp and see the empty pool every day. Jessica said they have found other ways to keep cool.

"Sometimes we go in the sprinklers," said the 9-year-old.

Youths and their parents aren’t the only ones affected by the pool closures. At least one business owner said she’s having the worst summer in two decades because of Murphy Pool.

Alicia Fiocca owns Alicia’s Homemade Water Ice on Shunk near Third Street, directly across from the empty concrete hole at Murphy. During a visit to the storefront last Thursday — a day with temperatures in the high 90s, ripe for some refreshing flavored ice — there was no one within two blocks.

Speaking through the open service window to her store, Fiocca said the sidewalk normally would be overflowing with soggy kids taking a break from swimming.

"This killed our business this year. Killed it," she said. "We are here 20 years, this is the worst year we’ve put in."

And it’s not just her wallet that is hurt. Fiocca has 23 grandchildren, most of whom live in the neighborhood and swim at Murphy. She doubts the pool will open at all this summer for them.

"It seems like nothing is really being put back together," she said, looking across the street.

Lou DiFranco, a part-time Recreation Department employee, said he worked at Barry Pool for the past three summers and briefly worked at Murphy as well. He had expected to work at Barry again this summer, but the delays have left him jobless.

"It is a very good pool," he said. "We take really good care of it and we are all disappointed that it didn’t open up."

Eight pools throughout the city remain closed this summer. Leo Dignam, manager of the Recreation Department’s District 10 facilities, which cover most of South Philly including Murphy and Barry, deferred comment to the department’s main office. Recreation Commissioner Victor Richard’s office referred questions to the city’s Capital Program Office.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Rick Tustin, director of the city’s Capital Program Office, said employees at Barry and Murphy were filling the pools and beginning a three-day leak test to ensure the pools aren’t losing water. A one-day filtration test will follow. Both pools will remain closed during the tests.

"Hopefully everything will go fine and they will pass all the tests and we’ll be in business," Tustin said. "If that’s the case … they probably will open within five days."

Tustin said the city budgets money every year to fix the pools, most of which are at least 25 years old.

Eric Iffrig, project manager for the Capital Program Office, said the city pools are expensive to maintain.

"If the pool pipes leak and nobody notices during the summer, you just pump in more water," he said. "In the meantime, there is degradation of your structure."

Barry has had new filtration and drainage systems installed, Iffrig said, and Murphy needed repairs to its foundation and had a new liquid chlorine disinfectant system installed. Both pools were sandblasted and repainted.