Council debates the future of Holder Park pool

The City of Cairo received notification last week that Environmental Health County Manager Clay Poole of the Grady County Health Department will not issue a pool permit for the Holder Park Pool until the surface of the pool is returned to good repair.
According to Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton, the pool’s surface has become chipped and rough due to chemical etching. Poole says the pool, in its current condition, violates state rules, which require pool surfaces to be smooth.
This is not the first time the city has addressed this issue with the pool, which was built in 2001. In April 2010, the council authorized the expenditure of $11,460 to sand and re-coat the pool surface and install a slip resistant epoxy where the pool slopes from the shallow end toward the deep end.
However, the repair estimate  to get the pool back in top condition in 2018 is $77,350, according to the city manager.
The city is consulting with the original pool contractor, L.H. Irwin of Irwin & Mahaffey Construction company, of Watkinsville.
Irwin had told city officials in 2010 that the repairs made at that time would only last three to four years.
On Monday night, the city manager asked the city council for direction on whether to proceed with the repairs in advance of the upcoming 10-week pool season or to consider other options.
The council previously approved to fund 39 percent of $900,000 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes earmarked for a joint city-county project to construct an aquatic center at Barber Park and approved by local voters in 2007.
“Do we want to invest that kind of money into the repair of the pool or wait and see what the county does with their pool?” Addleton asked.
Recent talks by members of the Grady County Commission have ranged from asking the voters to approve more money for the project and other amenities at Barber Park in an upcoming SPLOST referendum this fall or to seek to declare the project infeasible and allow the voters to vote the project up or down.
Councilman Jerry Cox voiced his opinion that the county is responsible for providing countywide recreation and he was not in favor of investing more money in the Holder Park pool. “We closed Davis Park pool for similar circumstances,” he added.
Addleton reminded the council the pool is only operated for 10 weeks of the year at a cost of approximately $61,000. He suggested another possibility may be to close the pool and create a splash park on the same site, which could be enjoyed for a longer period of time and for significantly less money, eliminating the need for certified lifeguards and pool chemicals.
The city manager said a decision must be made shortly in order to complete the repairs in time to open the pool this season.
Councilman Demario Byrden spoke out in support of repairing and preserving the pool for the community it serves. “That pool is a pillar for the community,” he said.
Mayor Booker Gainor suggested taking the city’s share of the SPLOST proceeds earmarked for the Barber Park aquatic center and use it to repair the pool and put the remainder toward construction of a multipurpose gym.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas reminded the mayor the city could not use the SPLOST proceeds for projects not included in the SPLOST referendum ballot.
The city manager said that the pool is utilized by the Jackie Robinson Boys and Girls Club and the Eastside Summer Fun Program during the morning hours, but in the afternoon community use of the pool has dwindled.
Mayor Gainor suggested the city could recoup its investment in the pool by renting the facility for birthday parties and other celebrations. Addleton said that the city’s risk increased by renting the facility, but Mayor Gainor said the city’s liability existed whether the pool was rented or not.
Councilman Lannis Thornton said the southwest Cairo community does utilize the pool during the season and he suggested, “we ought to be able to find the money somewhere to fix it.”
The city manager said that he had hoped the city could get by one more year before having to make a decision on repairs to the Holder Park pool which would allow the county time to make a final decision on the Barber Park aquatic center.
City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman asked if money was in the current city budget to operate the pool and Addleton said it was. “So, if private funds were made available to repair the pool the city could continue to operate it?” Lehman asked and the city manager responded affirmatively.
Councilman Byrden suggested opening the pool earlier could possibly increase revenue, but the city manager said the issue was finding the required number of certified lifeguards to man the pool.
Councilman Douglas said he would like to have additional information and the cost of a splash park before voting to spend $77,350 on repairing the 2001 pool.
Byrden said he could support closing the pool for a year to make the repairs and reopen it next year, but he was opposed to closing it permanently.
“If the county had a pool at Barber Park would you have the same idea?” Addleton said. Councilman Byrden said he would not “bank on” the county building a pool and Councilman Thornton said that many of the youngsters that used the Holder Park pool did not have a way to get out to Barber Park to swim even if a pool was built there.
Councilman Douglas offered a motion to table the matter for additional study and Councilman Thornton seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.

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