City Council endorses save-the-pool campaign

Published 5:51 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Don’t close the pool. That’s the message about 15 speakers and others in a packed Council Chambers delivered to the Washington City Council on Monday.

The speakers made their pleas during the hearing on the proposed budget. Prior to that hearing, the council voted 3-2 to support the city pool committee’s save-the-pool campaign, an effort to raise $150,000 to help replace the dehumidifier at the Hildred T. Moore Aquatic & Fitness Center. The committee wants the city to provide the other $150,000 to help buy the $300,000 dehumidifier.

Council members William Pitt, Richard Brooks and Larry Beeman voted to approve the campaign. Council members Doug Mercer and Virginia Finnerty voted against it.

Brooks noted the city has $500,000 in a facilities maintenance reserve fund and that some of that money could be used, if needed, to replace the dehumidifier. That money could be used if the committee does not meet its $150,000 goal.

“That’s the exact problem. If we support this in the way that you have mentioned, Councilman Brooks, if they raise $25,000, are we (the city) committed to spend $275,000? I don’t think that’s the intent of this board,” Mercer said.

“I want to support it, but I want firm commitments from everybody else because it seems to me that they promise, then we’re left holding the bag, and I don’t think that’s right,” Finnerty said. “Like I said, I want to support it, but I want some firm commitment from the people that are saying that they’re going to support it because it seems like it’s too easy for them to walk away and leave us holding the bag.”

Mercer said he support the idea of setting up a “public compact to solicit funds, but my firm belief is if they don’t make their $150,000 then they return their monies, and we go our merry way and we decide what we’re going to do at that time.”

Mayor Mac Hodges said, “We’re just going to have to have help from somewhere.”

City Manager Bobby Roberson said there is no line-item allocation in the proposed budget to replace the dehumidifier, but there are funds in the facilities maintenance reserve fund that could be used to buy a new unit, if those funds are not spent on other maintenance needs at other city facilities. To use money from that reserve fund to replace the unit, the council would have to authorize such a move, he said.

It cost the city about $360,000 a year to operate the pool. The city has never made money or broken even each fiscal year the pool has been operating.

Two area swim-team coaches lobbied for keeping the pool open, as did several people, including children, who use the pool on a regular basis. Scott Pake, one of those coaches, said the pool provides “more value than just the bottom line.”

Susan Howard, whose family uses the pool as swim-team members, said she uses the pool for rehabilitation reasons, as do others. “This pool cannot close. There is too much at stake for our community,” she said.

Spencer Pake, another swim-team coach, said the city should view the money it spends on the pool as an investment in the community. Other speakers voiced similar opinions.

The council took no action regarding the pool’s future.

Several speakers said they believe Beaufort County should provide money to help operate the pool. Mercer said he hopes pool supporters will attend the May 24 meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and repeat what they told the council. May 24 is when the city makes its case for county funds.

The city is seeking $1,323,490 to help pay for operating the city-owned Brown Library, the city-run Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center, the city-run Hildred T. Moore Aquatic Center and the city’s recreation facilities.

The breakdown of the request is $539,488 for recreation facilities, $357,263 for the aquatic center, $293,822 for the library and $132,917 for the senior center.









About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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