New pool put on back burner

If you can’t wait to slip on your swim trunks and take a dip in the new county pool approved by the voters in the most recent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, you may not want to hold your breath.
Grady County commissioners, on a 4-1 straw poll, made it clear the majority’s preference is to postpone the construction of the proposed Barber Park aquatic center indefinitely.
Only Chairman Bobby Burns was in favor of moving forward with the project, but scheduling the work to begin so that construction would not wrap up until next spring.
Commissioner Charles Renaud encouraged his fellow commissioners to postpone construction and consider all options before making a decision. Renaud favors a partnership with the city and construction of the new pool at Davis Park, which he says would tie in with the revitalization of downtown Cairo.
In a separate straw poll, the other commissioners voted down Renaud’s proposal in favor of constructing the pool at Barber Park when the time comes.
Several weeks ago pool contractors met with commissioners to review their bid proposals. The low bid received by the county for the pool construction was $765,000, but the recommended bid was $788,000, both of which are below the $900,000 approved for construction of the pool.
Commissioner Al Ball, who has previously supported proceeding with construction to take advantage of lower construction costs, said Tuesday night he would prefer delaying the construction until 2012 because of the costs of maintaining the pool.
“Once it’s built, we’ve got to have a trained, qualified staff to maintain it when in use and that will be a major expense,” Commissioner Ball said.
Commissioner Charles Norton questioned how a partnership with the city on the pool would impact the state required service delivery strategy negotiated between the county and the cities of Cairo and Whigham several years ago.
“I suspect it would muddy the water,” Administrator Rusty Moye replied. Moye also noted that if organized groups used the pool they would pay a user fee which could help defray the costs of pool operations.
Chairman Burns suggested that if construction was timed to be completed next spring, that would give the organized proponents of the pool time to raise the funds they promised to raise if the pool was included in the SPLOST referendum, and those funds could also defray the cost of maintenance and operations.
However, Commissioner Elwyn Childs sided with the majority and went even further by commenting, “Personally, I wish it was never built. I wish there was some way for the people to vote and cancel that thing out, but we are bound by the law.”
After the straw poll was taken, Moye said he would contact the prospective contractors and advise them of the board’s desire to hold off on pool construction.

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