Weighing the options
Jesse Campbell, Staff Reporter
Ashe County Parks and Recreation is being considered as one option for the future home of the countys next public swimming pool.
According to Park Director Joe Boccardy, the countys 2006 Comprehensive Master Plan, proposed ACPR as the site for an indoor swimming facility by 2015 at a cost of approximately $2.5 million.
County officials are considering options for public swimming facilities in light of the closure of the pool at Ashe County Middle School. A community discussion concerning the future of the middle school pool will be held on Monday, at 6 p.m. at the Ashe County Middle School.
The 2006 Master Plan was engineered and reviewed by McGill Associates and later signed by five county commissioners in December 2006. Essentially, the plan was the first step in the process of filing for state grants to help pay for additional park amenities. Overall, the document is a 10 year capital improvement plan that calls for the completion of a pool in year eight of the project.
Included within the six-section document is a survey that asks participants to rank in order of importance the top 10 facilities that could be developed by the county for the purpose of recreation. Of the 320 compiled surveys representing 800 individuals, the need for an indoor pool led all 28 categories.
In January, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners and the Ashe County Board of Education held a joint session to determine the best route to take in restructuring the current facility at Ashe County Middle School. Originally, the county had planned on filing for a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant. The matching funds would help pay for the necessary restructuring to bring the pool into compliance which would cost approximately $500,000.
With a rapidly approaching February deadline, commissioners and board members concurred that it would be best to postpone the filing for a PARTF grant until 2010 to allow for additional time for fundraising to help raise matching costs. A joint-agreement between the county, the school board and a separate fund raising entity had been discussed by commissioners and board members that would split the total costs for matching funds three ways or $83,000 per party. Members of both boards suggested that a better location for the pool could be found in Jefferson or possibly the Ashe County Park.
Boccardy said it is the responsibility of the division of parks and recreation to maintain an indoor facility and not that of the board of education or the commissioners, citing that neither entitys mission statement made reference of the responsibility of building or maintaining a pool.
Boccardy went on to explain that although Warrensville, the pools current location, is the geographic center of the county it is not the population center and a pool would better serve the area if it was constructed in the proximity of the Family Central building in Jefferson.
Part of Boccardys vision included the construction of an indoor facility that would attach to the rear of the gymnasium and would include a lap pool and a splash area for childrens events such as birthday parties.
Boccardy suggested that the pool be heated and equipped with an aquatic staff to properly maintain it year round. The operation of such a facility would cost approximately $100,000 annually, Boccardy said. Funding for the project would come from bonds, grants, user fees and contributions, the master plan suggested.
A Creston resident, Boccardy does not want to see the demise of the current facility at the middle school in Warrensville. He recommended that one possible route is to construct a new facility at Family Central and convert the former pool into an outdoor facility that would operate exclusively during the summer months.
County Commissioner Gerald Price said that the most viable option in the consideration of the construction of a new facility is to wait another year. Price said that additional time could allow the county a chance to raise additional funds necessary to create a top notch facility. Considering the current economic turmoil, now may not be the best time to spend taxpayer dollars on a new facility, Price explained.
My number one concern is that the taxpayers of Ashe County have food on their table and money in their pockets to pay their electric bills and medical expenses, Price said.
Price said he does not oppose a new facility but simply stated that additional time could yield more workers and a revived local economy.
I think we need to do some serious consideration when dealing with $500,000 for a pool, Price said. Right now I dont think the county or parks and recreation have the means to build or operate a pool.
Boccardy also said that additional funds must be allotted for a functional pool to become a reality for Ashe Countys citizens. He also said that additional revenue for the operational costs of a pool could be raised through land transfer taxes and bonds.
It will not be until Ashe County can come up with additional revenue above and beyond property taxes that we will be able to subsidize the operation of a pool, Boccardy said.
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