2007-09-13 / Front Page

City council hears recommendation to consider a 'family aquatic facility'

By KIP BURKE news editor

In its regular September meeting, the Washington City Council heard the long-awaited recommendation of the swimming pool committee, and council members discussed that and other far-ranging programs under consideration.

The pool committee reported to the council, and after consulting with a nationally recognized pool consultant, recommended that "the city consider the construction of a $2.7 million family leisure pool, a state-of-the-art outdoor aquatic facility with water slides …." The recommendation was made with the realization, the committee reported, that construction would cost an estimated $2,764,000, and operational costs will exceed expected revenues by some $40,000 per month for each of the three months the pool is open."

Councilman Maceo Mahoney said that he appreciated the committee's work over the last year, but as much as the city needs a pool, "two million dollars is a lot of money."

Mahoney said that he had talked to a pool company and found that a junior Olympic pool could be built for $225,000. He said he couldn't see the $40,000-a-month cost to operate a big aquatic center. "I've been a lifeguard at the Reese Booker Center, so I know," he said.

Councilman G.L. Avery's comments on the subject were largely inaudible, but he too was concerned about the ongoing operating costs involved in any pool, whatever the size.

Councilman Nathaniel Cullars said, "I want a pool just like the one at Reese Booker Park. It wouldn't take that much to dig those rocks up and put it back like it was."

He said the kids need a pool now, and that they didn't need a $2 million facility. Remembering how his generation learned to swim at the Reese Booker pool, he said, "It was plenty big enough for our kids. We just need to dig it up and put it back like it was."

After more discussion, Cullars put his proposal in the form of a motion. "I make a motion that we dig up those rocks on Whitehall and put the same size pool back." The motion was voted down with only Cullars and Mahoney voting in favor.

Councilman Ray Hardy put any pool expense into perspective. "We've got needs, and we've got wants. We don't even know how we're going to service the debt on the Pope Center, and we've got water treatment stations that are going to need rehab soon, and a lot of other things."

City Administrator Mike Eskew reminded council members about the upcoming council retreat this week, during which RDC representative Christian Lentz would give council members an extensive review of the Southwest Washington Redevelopment Plan. That review, and their attendance at the September 18 open house at the Booker Center, would allow council members to help the public understand the plan. "This is the most far-reaching decision you're likely to ever consider," he said.

Another important meeting Eskew reminded council members about was the Communities of Opportunity meeting for all elected officeholders on September 17 at the Senior Citizens Center. The Communities of Opportunity program, he said, "appears tailor-made for the issues we have in Wilkes County."

In response to Councilman Cullars' question, Eskew said that he was working with Comcast Cable to get council meetings broadcast. Cullars moved that the council should put the televising of council meetings "up for bid."

In discussion, City Attorney Barry Fleming said that the usual way to obtain professional services was to put out a request for proposals.

Eskew also reported that the Pope Convention Center renovation was nearing completion. Contract work was nearing completions as contractors were working through a short punch list, and paving and curbing would be done by the end of the week. Furniture would be arriving by September 15, and audio-visual work was expected to also be complete by the end of this week, he said.

A request for proposals for the center's marquee sign is out, and proposals were due in this week, Eskew reported.

Discussion ensued about the need to advertise when requests for proposals went out, and some confusion was apparent among the councilmen over the difference between put- ting a construction contract out for bids, and putting out a request for proposals for professional services. Councilman Mahoney moved that the city put professional services up for bids rather than request for proposals. His motion was defeated.

In other business, permission was granted to Mrs. Dorothy Bloxham to have a mobile home on her North Bypass property for a caregiver.

The council also gave permission to the Washington-Wilkes Arts Foundation to close off the head of The Square by the courthouse on Saturday, November 3 for the Fall ARTFEST from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The council also passed an emergency reimbursement ordinance that sets user fees for the delivery of fireservices.

At the request of Main Street/ Better Hometowns Director David Jenkins, the council gave permission for cones to be put up and traffic restricted on Court Street for the Market Days Street Festival on October 27.

Jenkins reviewed progress on the brownfieldsgrant, a Kettle Creek grant, and work on the School Street cemetery project.

On the Kettle Creek project, Jenkins said he had received the paperwork from the federal government and was putting together an advisory committee.

Tourism Director Ashley Barnett reported that Washington-Wilkes would be advertising in upcoming editions of Southern Living and Georgia magazine, and that a billboard was going up on Highway 78 to advertise local attractions. Georgia Public Radio is coming here, she said, in October.

She reminded all present about the upcoming Melanie Hart concert on The Square September 22, and said promoters were planning both a funk and soul concert and a country concert, both at Aonia Park, later in October.

Donna Hardy reported that the Work Ready Initiative meeting had been held, and that the group was getting to work on their goals of increasing the high school graduation rate and getting 214 Wilkes workers certified work ready.

She also said that the Washington- Wilkes Chamber of Commerce had received a letter of thanks from Vianlix Mestey Schneider, producer of a movie recently filmed in Washington and Wilkes County. She also reminded all present that a Grand Re-opening was scheduled for Farmers Home Furniture on East Robert Toombs this Thursday morning at 9:15.

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