Town Opts To Fix The Pool

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2013

FARMVILLE — Town Council voted during its October work session last week to repair the swimming pool at the municipal golf course and officials believe they can do so without taking a financial bath.

Even with a revised cost analysis seeing the price rising from the estimated $60,000 discussed last month to $78,325.

The lone ‘nay’ vote was cast by Jamie Davis, who first advocated waiting until the Town was better able to afford the expenditure, and then asked that the vote be delayed until council’s regular October meeting this Wednesday (today) so that he’d have more time to consider the decision.

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Other town council voices wanted to vote ‘yes’ and do so during the work session.

They did.

“I don’t see where we have much of a choice,” said Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr. “I think we need to go ahead and fix the pool.”

The Town will go ahead and do so, the work coming with a 20-year guarantee.

According to data provided to town council, 2,773 people used the pool during its 79 days of operation between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year. Pool use impressed council members.

The pool repair cost will be split into two payments because part of the work will be performed this fall, the remainder in the spring.

Money for the project, which received the recommendation of town council’s finance committee, will come from the Town budget’s $350,000 contingency fund. But salary savings will more than cover the cost, according to the town manager. Spates said a municipal employee had vacated a position and its $58,000. The Town is not expected to hire a replacement, according to Spates. Several part-time positions had also been eliminated, with a total reduction in personnel costs of approximately $94,000.

“It will save us that much in those positions,” the town manager said, before posing what had become the $78,325 question.

“So what do ya’ll want to do about the pool?” Spates asked, as the discussion began.

Last month, following an equally long discussion, town council had referred the pool repair question to its finance committee. Dr. Edward I. Gordon, on the committee along with David E. Whitus and Vice-Mayor Armstead D. Reid, said the trio “felt like if the money was there, it’s a good project, even if it (the pool) doesn’t make money. That was our philosophy. If the money was there. Is the money there? You’re saying it is,” he said to Spates.

Spates noted that Whitus, who last month said he could not in good conscience vote for such an expense if the town didn’t have the money, “was very emphatic to make sure that if we did it we did not take it off the line of credit.”

The line of credit apparently will not be used.

The pool’s merits as a recreational asset, especially as an outlet for young people, was a prominent part of council’s considerations.

“I think we can handle (the cost),” said Dr. Gordon, adding that he sees the pool as “one of those things that make Farmville Farmville—and we are looked upon so much differently than so many other towns because of all these things that we can do. And nobody ever thought (the pool) was going to make money.”

As for local youth, council member Sally Thompson said “you’re protecting the future by having something for our kids.”

The costs of incarceration tomorrow versus recreational expenses today was never very far from the surface of the discussion.

Dr. Gordon, noting a point that council member Donald L. Hunter made last month, said, “we’re going to see these kids in jail” if recreational opportunities are not offered.

“What was the total this summer?” Hunter then asked of the pool’s use.

“Close to 3,000 (people),” Thompson answered.

“We have to think about those 3,000—where they’re going to go, what are they going to do?” wondered Hunter, acting superintendent at the Piedmont Regional Jail, adding, “I don’t have room for them (in the jail).”

Davis acknowledged the positive contributions recreation makes in the lives of young people but advocated a different fiscal approach to the needed repairs.

While calling the pool “a benefit we have for the citizens,” Davis lobbied for asking the pool repair firm if it would hold the offered price in place until the spring, when the Town would have received a large part of its annual revenue.

Davis felt uncomfortable taking on a new expense, given the fact the Town recently added the cigarette tax to help financial ends meet.

“I just think, from my personal perspective, one of the things we have to consider is a new tax was just put in place for budgetary reasons. I do believe, personally, it’s something we need to fix but I think it’s timing,” he said, referring to the Town’s having used $1 million of its line of credit last month, “which is the same as living on a credit card when you can’t pay the bills. I think that’s something that’s a red flag to me…”

Davis suggested the Town wait to repair the pool until the line of credit is paid off.

Spates explained the Town’s use of the line of credit by saying it’s all about “cash flow. All of our taxes (revenue) don’t come in until January.”

The town manager said the line of credit would be paid off in February but that waiting until the spring to repair the pool would not provide sufficient time to get the work done in time for a Memorial Day opening.
“You wait to do everything and you’ll never get it done,” Spates said. “If you put it off until the first of the year you will not get it done.”

Davis persevered, however, describing his proposal to delay pool repairs until the line of credit is paid off as “good, proper handling of public funds.”

Dr. Gordon bluntly countered, saying, “I don’t agree…” and he then made a motion to repair the pool.

During the lengthy discussion, Dr. Gordon had said, “I really think it’s important as a community. We do a lot of community-based things that make our community a good community. We try to be proactive. I really feel this (expense) isn’t going to hurt us overall. I don’t see this as a negative.”