City urged to weigh in on pool debate
The Cairo City Council is being urged to contest what appears to be the Grady County Commission’s desire to not build a competitive swimming pool at Barber Park and divert the funds to other projects or possibly declare the aquatic center project infeasible.
Aquatic center proponent John Brannon appeared before the mayor and council Monday night requesting they challenge the county commission, which recently discussed a number of options including just building a splash pad and new recreation department headquarters or declaring the project infeasible and putting it back on the ballot for voters to decide.
“I don’t like coming up here. I don’t like the publicity and I certainly don’t need it, but the county is trying not to build the swimming pool,” Brannon said.
Brannon suggested unless the city council acts and acts soon the issue could derail the renewal of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that will be voted on in November.
The Cairo businessman said it could result in the city losing approximately $7 million in revenue from the SPLOST if voters turned out to vote down the tax.
Brannon challenged the advice the county is said to have received from the new county attorney. He said that sales taxes were collected for approximately three years before the state law governing SPLOST was changed.
He shared advertising materials that were produced prior to the passage of the SPLOST a decade ago and it mentioned the eight-lane competitive pool as part of the aquatic center.
“An administrative building for the recreation department was never contemplated,” Brannon said.
The pool backer said, “This is my final effort short of filing a lawsuit against the county. I don’t want to do that. We need for you to stand up and make them do what they are supposed to do. You (the city) used the money correctly, they (the county) haven’t,” Brannon said.
“They didn’t like the advice their former counsel gave them so they fired him and got a new one,” he noted.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas said he agreed with most of what Brannon had said, but he also pointed out that regardless of what action the county took, if the pool was not constructed, the county would have to seek the city’s consent since it was a joint project.
Douglas said if the project was determined to be infeasible it would be his view that the city should get back its 39 percent share of the $900,000 allocated for the aquatic center project, plus interest.
“The voters were very clear that a pool was to be built. I attended several meetings where a competitive pool was discussed and no administrative building was included in that,” Douglas said.
Councilman Jerry Cox also questioned how the county could spend SPLOST proceeds for projects like the recreation department administrative building when it was not one of the voter approved projects.
Brannon urged the council to “buck them” or do whatever necessary. “This is not for me. My children are grown and gone. I don’t have grandchildren here. I’m just interested in good, honest government,” the local State Farm Insurance agent said.
Brannon said not only would the voters lose faith in government not doing what they said they would do 10 years ago, but that voters may be confused by multiple ballot questions and vote against renewing the sales tax, which he said both the city and county desperately need.
“The county should build the competitive pool the voters voted for and the money has been collected for and they should do it now,” Brannon said.
In other business Monday night, the council:
Heard a request from Councilman Bobby Gwaltney for the city manager to look into an agreement between the city and the Woman’s Club of Cairo that calls for the club to receive a $25 fee any time Davis Park is rented and the gazebo is used.
Heard a request from Councilman Douglas that shrubs at Greenwood Cemetery need to be trimmed to eliminate visual obstructions to motorists pulling out of the cemetery onto 20th Street N.E.
Heard an update from City Manager Chris Addleton that Chris Taylor of Taylor Waste Services will appear before the council to discuss the increased cost of transporting the city’s solid waste to an out-of-town landfill once the city’s landfill is closed to household garbage.