Several officials of the D.C. Recreation Department gathered Thursday to stare into the half-empty Kelly Miller pool. The pool in Northeast Washington that had taken five years to fix. The pool that cost $750,000 to fix.
The pool that now had a new leak.
Chip Fawcett, administrator for policy, planning and evaluations, listened glumly to the report of a loss of 12 inches of water overnight.
"Well, there are always some glitches," Fawcett said. "We've got to find the leak and fix it."
Fawcett and his boss, Recreation and Parks Director Paul L. Woodard, are determined to keep "glitches" from spoiling a near-perfect opening of all 21 large, outdoor pools and 14 smaller wading pools at noon today. This is the first time in recent memory that the District government may actually open all, or almost all, the pools on schedule.
Late yesterday, Fawcett said they were still working on the problem -- their theory was a stuck relief valve -- but they were optimistic the opening deadline would be met.
City pools register 1 million visits per year, according to the city. After years of unhappy children showing up at dry pools because problems were not discovered until opening day, Woodard had vowed this year would be different. He said he formed a task force on the day after the pools closed last year, and it met every two weeks last year and every week this year.
"The task force was one of our successes this year," said Woodard, who has been department director for two years. "This year we have great news. We will have all the pools open and open on time."
The department contracted with pool repair firms last year for work starting in April, Woodard said. In the past, problems were not identified until spring, and by then most repair firms were already booked, he said.
Woodard said they began filling pools in April, checking for problems. When Mayor Marion Barry announced unexpectedly that leftover Riverfest funds would be used to open some pools on Memorial Day weekend, Woodard said, he was ready.
"We had seven pools all tested and we opened them immediately," he said.
Woodard said the Upshur pool at 14th Street and Arkansas Avenue NW may not open until tomorrow because of a filter problem.
The Kelly Miller pool, in the Marshall Heights neighborhood, was closed five years ago because of fractured pipes and cracked decking. The $100,000 repair job turned into a $750,000 renovation when more extensive problems were found.
Woodard said it took five years to budget the money for the repair bill.
Woodard said the opening of the long-closed pool would not be marked by a ceremony.
"We are going to low-key it altogether," he said. "We are embarrassed about the long delay. People in the neighborhood just don't understand about the money involved. They just want their pool back."