Aquatic center committee is appointed
Grady County Commission Chairman Elwyn Childs has appointed a committee to develop a recommendation for a proposed aquatic center to be paid for by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds and bring it back to the county commission for a final decision.
The idea of a committee involving county officials as well as local residents has been discussed before, but at a workshop meeting Monday, newly elected District 3 Commissioner Keith Moye pushed for its creation.
Chairman Childs appointed Commissioners Moye and Vice Chairman Ray Prince to serve along with former county commissioner Charles Renaud and Barbara Hinson. Rounding out the committee is Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar, Grady County Recreation Director Becky Bracewell and County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley.
Meeting with the county commission, with the exception of Commissioner LaFaye Copeland and county attorney Cauley, who had a prior engagement, were Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton and Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard. Also sitting in on the meeting was County Clerk Carrie Kines Croy, Renaud, Hinson and Kris Weaver.
During the Monday afternoon session, Tobar told commissioners that his recommendation had “evolved” over time, but he and Bracewell were still recommending Holder Park pool to serve the needs for a local swim team and to host competitive events, but to build a splash pad facility with a small pool where children could learn to swim at Barber Park.
Bracewll said there is not a local swim team here any more and not one at the high school, which prompted Hinson to say the local swim team ceased to exist once the Davis Park pool was closed and the team had nowhere to practice or compete.
Commissioner Moye commented, “We wouldn’t have a football team either if we didn’t have a football field.”
Moye pushed the commissioners not to rehash the pool issue but to move forward with organizing a committee that could bring back a recommendation to the county commission.
Hinson also urged the board to “quit talking about it” and “to do what was right” and build the pool the voters approved.
Ideas for a facility that would satisfy those who originally pushed for the competition swimming pool to be funded by the sales tax back in 2007 and the commissioners’ desires to scale the project back were discussed.
An engineer’s drawing of a combination splash pad and lap pool constructed in Albany was shared and was the focus of much of the discussion Monday.
Vice Chairman Prince said that his goal all along was to build a facility that would benefit the most taxpayers possible. During the discussion he suggested building a t-shaped pool which would have the elements of a competition pool at the top of the “T” and range in depth from six feet at both ends and rising to approximately four feet in the center, which the bottom of the “T” would be an infinity pool that sloped down from ground level down to four feet, which would accommodate children, beginning swimmers and the handicapped.
Renaud, who is the parent of an award-winning swimmer, said that Prince’s suggestion would likely satisfy many people. Renaud said that there was no doubt what was considered when the voters cast ballots in 2007, and that was for a competition pool.
To ignore that group could jeopardize a future SPLOST, Renaud warned.
Commission Chairman Childs asked if a plan similar to the Albany facility would satisfy the group that originally advocated for the pool. Renaud said there was no way to make everyone happy. “Nothing less than an eight lane competition pool would satisfy one group, but another faction would be satisfied with just a splash pad. There will still be some folks with a sour taste in their mouths regardless of what is decided,” Renaud predicted.
Bracewell asked if there was a way to put the project back before the voters. In the absence of the county attorney, Commissioner T.D. David read from the state statue and offered his opinion that the project could be declared infeasible and put back before the voters, but the money then could only be used for reduction of county debt or to reduce ad valorem rates. David also said it would be two years before the election could be held.
Commissioner Moye questioned David’s assumption that the project could be declared infeasible and also voiced opposition to waiting that long to bring the matter to a conclusion.
Tobar also noted that the $100,000 grant awarded to the county for Barber Park improvements from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources would also expire in Dec. 2018.
In Moye’s push to organize a committee, Tobar challenged the need. He said the board could instruct him how to proceed and he would see that the board’s directions were followed.
Moye would not back down and offered a motion to organize a committee which was seconded by Prince and approved unanimously.
Chairman Childs said that by reaching a compromise it was likely private money might also be made available to fund a portion of the project. “I would not be surprised,” Renaud commented.
Childs asked Superintendent Gilliard if the county constructed the pool on school property would the school system take ownership and operate and maintain the facility. The superintendent said he could not speak for the school board, but he said the school system has less additional money than any of the other local governments and to do so would require a tax increase, which he would not recommend.
Also during Monday’s meeting, City Manager Addleton was questioned on the budget to operate Holder Park pool. Addleton said the budget is approximately $60,000 annually to operate the city pool for a 10-week season, seven days a week.
The county has collected $900,000 in sales taxes for the proposed aquatic center and those funds are in a restricted account, county officials say.