Billy Bowles was in the deep end of the McDermott pool; standing on the bottom, in fact.
David Picozzi was in the men’s locker room shower and Jim Dorney was giving Mayor Scott Avedisian and his guest a tour of the ladies locker room.
It’s not where one would expect to find city workers and the city’s top elective official on a Wednesday morning.
“This is the first major overhaul since it was built,” Avedisian said of the pool. Built in the 1970s, and named after Paul J. McDermott, a Hendricken teacher who was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 26, the pool was considered state-of-the-art when it opened. It’s translucent panels and rollup steel doors, opening to provide indoor-outdoor use, were unique and innovative at the time. Now the outdoor feature is rarely used and the panels provide some natural light, but they are a major heat drain on the building.
Replacing the panels isn’t part of the plan this time, but when city crews are finished, much of the pool will have a brand new feel. Most importantly, the plan will enhance safety and clean up areas that have sources of complaints. The metal lockers (that never should have been used in the pool’s humid environment) are being replaced with plastic composites that won’t rust or need to be repainted. The floor in the women’s locker room has settled over the years and is being pitched so that water flows to drains rather than pooling, Dorney told the mayor. Dorney oversees the pool and the city’s two skating arenas that comprise the Mickey Stevens Sports Complex.
“It will be ‘mop-ready,’” Dorney said of the floor, which, in addition to being leveled, will get a colored resin coating with a textured surface that will reduce the chances of slipping.
The floor, the only contracted aspect of the job, is also being replaced in the men’s locker room. The floor alone is costing $23,460 while the entire budget for the renovations is $50,700.
It’s the locker room walls and the pool itself that are getting the facelift. Picozzi, director of the Department of Public Works, had a sponge in either hand and was wiping the freshly grouted tiles of the men’s showers as Dorney and Avedisian made their swing through the area. The reflective beige tiles and sparkling fixtures gave the room a just-built look, even with the painting of upper walls and new ceiling tiles yet to come.
“It looks like the Marriott,” Picozzi said to the mayor, who stood admiring the work.
To ensure a long-lasting job, the walls of both locker rooms were sandblasted. It is a detail only those who understand the difficulty of maintaining clean mold-free conditions in a moist environment would appreciate.
Equally unnoticed are the boilers that have been replaced and the pool’s interior. Bowles was touching up the deep end, working with a paint roller. The paint is white. Once filled and treated, it takes on a characteristic blue hue.
One of most challenging aspects of the job was removing a giant square heater with metal ducts directly above the transition from shallow to deep ends. Rust from the heater used to drop into the pool, leaving a brownish stain on the bottom. To cut it out required building a staging from the angled pool flooring, which wasn’t easy, Dorney said.
What also doesn’t allow for error is the timetable.
McDermott is one of the largest pools in the state and a favorite for organized meets. It is the site of the Northeast Swim Meet from July 12 to July 14, when an estimated 400 swimmers converge on Warwick. Dorney’s deadline is July 8. A calendar hangs in the corridor leading to the front doors with the days “X”-ed off since the project began. Nearby and overhead, a giant digital clock counts down the hours and the seconds. Dorney and Picozzi plan to set it at 99 hours when the time arrives. The race is on to complete the job and refill the pool, which is done, oddly enough, by tapping a fire hydrant.