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The Cairo City Council passed a funding measure Monday night to make necessary repairs to the city’s Holder Park pool so that it can be opened for the summer swim season this year.
City officials had previously been advised by officials with the Southwest Georgia Public Health District that without these repairs, Public Health would not permit the pool to open.
Both the city council and the Grady County Commission have committed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds earmarked for a new aquatic center to the Grady County Board of Education. The school board is looking to combine the SPLOST proceeds with other funds to construct an indoor pool facility, which would be open to the public.
Cairo City Councilman Jerry Cox noted at the council’s meeting Monday night that it would be two-and-a-half to three years before the new pool was built.
Councilman Lannis Thornton offered a motion to approve the apparent low bid from Irwin & Mahaffey to make the necessary repairs to Holder Park pool. However, Thornton did not include $2,461 for a 12-foot diving board.
“I don’t think we need it,” Thornton said.
However, Mayor Booker Gainor and Councilman Demario Byrden had different thoughts.
The mayor said including a diving board would create a bigger draw for the pool and would boost attendance.
Thornton, though, stood firm on his stated motion, which did not include a diving board. Councilman Cox offered a second.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas questioned if all the work proposed was necessary in order for the pool to open or could some of it be eliminated or postponed. The city manager said that the bid was only for work that was required.
“We need some attraction. I don’t understand. It’s always had one,” Councilman Byrden said.
Councilman Thornton said it was a liability issue and a safety concern since the majority of swimmers who utilize the pool are younger children.
During previous swim seasons, the city had to replace multiple diving boards that were broken by older swimmers.
“At a cost of $2,500 each, I made the decision after replacing them multiple times we would eliminate the diving board,” Cairo city manager Chris Addleton told The Messenger Tuesday.
Councilman Byrden attempted to amend Thornton’s motion Monday night, but no one offered a second.
“I’m looking after the safety of the children who swim there. Everyone can enjoy it just as much without a diving board,” Councilman Thornton said.
The motion passed 4-1 with Byrden voting against.
Later in the meeting, the mayor asked if a diving board was donated to the city would the council accept it. Councilman Douglas suggested the city manager check with the city’s insurance carrier to determine if having a diving board or not impacted the city’s liability or insurance expense and report back and the council could address the subject of accepting a donation at that point.
Councilman Cox also recommended the city manager begin seeking lifeguards now rather than later since in the past the city had had difficulty hiring enough certified lifeguards to man the pool.
Other repair bids received included $85,496 from Cox Pools of Dothan, Alabama, and $111,183 from Southern Pools of Whigham. Irwin & Mahaffey, the low bidder, of Watkinsville, was the contractor that originally built the pool and had done previous repairs to the pool.
According to the city manager, only $70,000 is budgeted for Holder Park pool repairs in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.