NEW ORLEANS -- In the peak season for summer camps, the city of New Orleans shut down the pool and gymnasium at the Treme Center, citing the same safety concerns revealed in an ongoing Eyewitness Investigation that began last month.
City officials announced the closure Thursday night in a news release, saying all gym and pool activities would be suspended until permanent solutions to construction problems can be found.
Eyewitness Investigates uncovered a long list of construction-related problems after the more than $6 million renovation with a price tag that had ballooned over the life of the project.
Community members who use the facility regularly said two additional people were injured this week after slipping on the recently-refinished concrete pool deck. The city had shut the pool down in March of this year because the same concrete deck wasn't properly draining.
Four others have been injured by tripping on the gym floor since the Treme Center re-opened a little more than a year ago. The more than $150,000 gran sprung basketball court was installed with a higher profile than the rest of the floor that surrounds it. City officials said the architect, Hamilton Anderson, had recommended that the city install a transition strip to fix the problem.
Initially, contractors installed an aluminum strip that led to a large cut on a basketball player who tripped on it. Later, the city replaced it with a rubber strip that would buckle with the bounce of the gym floor. The other three injuries resulted from trips on the rubber transition strip.
In our investigative report, the city's capital projects director said the original contractor had agreed to re-shape the concrete around the pool to get it to properly drain and eliminate large puddles of water that were accumulating around it, creating a slip hazard.
After it re-opened in May, residents raised concerns that the repairs had made the concrete surface even more slippery. When a summer swimming camp started this week, other users of the pool say a young child slipped on the pool deck in the morning and an adult female slipped and hit her head on the concrete later that same day.
"This is an absolute mess," said Amy Stelly, an urban designer who is a frequent user of the Treme Center.
“The Tremé Center is important and we all want the same thing, a safe place where we can swim, play, meet and celebrate as a community,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in the news release issued Thursday. “We have a team of dedicated professionals working with our contractors and the NORDC staff to ensure that we deliver a quality product to our citizens. The Tremé Center is a priority and we ask for the public’s patience while we work to get this right.”
The Landrieu administration said they are "assessing legal remedies" with the contractors on the project where necessary to get the repairs completed to safety and community standards. The release reads, "To ensure cooperation, the City is currently withholding funds from the contractor until the repairs are completed. The City will not accept the repairs as completed until it is fully satisfied."
Icon Construction was the lead contractor on the project and is currently working on another city construction project: the construction of the golf clubhouse at Pontchartrain Park.
"I appreciate the effort, but we have concerns about the continued use of the same contractors who executed the work poorly in the first place," Stelly said.
While the gym and pool are shut down, NORDC made some accommodations for users of the Treme Center including the planned summer camps. The release outlined them as follows:
Youth participating in six summer camps will continue swim classes without a reduction in swim days at alternate NORDC pools including Lemann Pool (536 N. Prieur St.), Stallings Gentilly Pool (1600 Gentilly Blvd.), Sampson Pool (3100 Louisa St.), A.L. Davis Pool (2600 La Salle Street), and Taylor Pool (2600 S. Roman St.). NORDC will cover all transportation costs to alternate locations as necessary.
An additional water aerobics class has been added at Joe W. Brown Pool (5601 Read Blvd.) from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Monday – Friday to accommodate Treme Center water aerobics class participants. The City will provide a free shuttle daily to and from the Treme Center to Joe W. Brown Pool for citizens wishing to attend this evening water aerobics class; the shuttle departs from the Tremé Center at 5:15 p.m.
The Tambourine and Fan Summer Camp will begin on Monday, June 9, 2014 and operate for 9 weeks until Friday, August 8, 2014. In partnership with the camp operator, the City has made accommodations to direct activities to the Treme Center’s multi-purpose rooms, dance rooms, second floor mezzanine and playground area. Breakfast and lunch will be held at Craig School. Craig School will also have 6 rooms available for use.