Nay Aug water slides to be demolished

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Oct. 18—SCRANTON — As the future of Nay Aug Park's defunct pool complex remains unclear, crews will demolish the large water slides that have towered there for nearly two decades.

Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti's administration wants to pursue a master plan for the park, including the pool site, but the mayor acknowledged Monday it will likely be several years before a revived Nay Aug aquatics complex is ready for the public.

The defunct complex last hosted swimmers in 2019, with only of its two pools, the water slide pool, operational.

Scranton authorized a $157,300 contract late last year with Pioneer Construction Co. Inc. to demolish the two pools and a pump house. Officials recently finalized a change order to include demolition of the water slides for an additional $9,000, city Office of Economic and Community Development Director Eileen Cipriani said.

Both pools have been demolished and filled. The pump house remains after a project to reroute an electrical system powering other parts of the park, though the structure is slated for demolition this week.

Demolition of the slides will begin Tuesday morning, officials said, noting the attraction's manufacturer is no longer in business and parts are no longer available.

"It's unfortunately obsolete and we cannot build a plan around a slide that we can't repair," Cognetti said.

The towering amenity was added in 2003, during former Mayor Chris Doherty's administration. It cost about $209,000, according to newspaper records.

City council Vice President Mark McAndrew, who's voiced frustration over what he sees as a lack of progress on the pool front, criticized the planned slide demolition as premature. He believes they could have been maintained.

"Without a plan, how do you do this?" McAndrew asked rhetorically. "There's nothing written in stone yet. "

In late May, Cognetti presented council with potential designs for a revived pool complex featuring both a splash pad and shallow pool. Those options, which ranged in cost from an estimated $5.6 million to $7.2 million and included pools with a sloping entrance and maximum depth of 3 feet, didn't appeal to city council members, who called for a more traditional pool conducive to swimmers of all ages.

The mayor noted at the time the city's intention to remove the slides.

Amid funding questions, Cognetti confirmed in late July that officials were exploring the Nay Aug Park master plan approach, noting her unwillingness to take on new debt or raise taxes to pay for a pool complex.

She said Monday her administration will propose using about $1.5 million from a $6 million pool of workers' compensation excess reserve funds — which the state Department of Labor and Industry returned to the city several years ago — to fund the master plan, safety upgrades and recreational improvements at the park.

Such a plan would inform future upgrades and could bolster the city's chances of securing grant funding for park improvements, including the pool complex project.

While Scranton can't use federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for a Nay Aug pool project, Cognetti said officials will also pursue grant funding for the master plan and other recreation upgrades.

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