Thursday, June 12, 2008
Citizens want to study pool situation
By SUE WATSON
Holly Springs’ only public swimming pool is closed again this year, and some citizens attended the board of aldermen meeting June 3 to argue the city should make a stronger effort to reopen it.
W.A. McMillan addressed the board, first congratulating the city for providing a summer camp this year for youth.
“In the summer, young people want to get in the water and learn how to swim,” he said. “Many have saved their lives because they learned to swim. I wonder why you don’t think it’s important.”
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry countered that the board has not said it is not important to provide swimming for youth. The pool cannot be reopened until it is repaired, life-guards are hired and the city has liability insurance.
“We have looked and could not secure four water safety instructors,” he said. “We cannot open the pool without insurance.”
He said the pool was still a liability to the city even though it has been closed for several summers.
DeBerry said he had explored the option of the city using the Rust College pool or purchasing the old country club property, which he said was cost prohibitive.
“The city of Holly Springs is not unique,” he said. “Several cities have closed their pools because of lack of insurance or costs.”
He mentioned two who drowned in a Memphis pool recently.
“I hear that nice speech, Mr. Mayor, but I do think people drown every day across the country with lifeguards,” McMillan said.
He believes the city can find lifeguards to work at the pool.
DeBerry said the city had advertised for lifeguards last year and did not get enough responses.
Albert Jones joined McMillan in supporting the reopening of the pool.
“I understand about lifeguards, but we could have classes with 25 in the pool at a time (requiring fewer lifeguards),” Jones said. “These families are taxpayers, but we understand these children are being left out of pertinent activities and education as well. You could have contacted colleges for certified guards.”
Insurance stipulated lifeguards must be trained by Red Cross certified instructors, DeBerry said.
Jones said lifeguards could be sought out over the internet.
DeBerry said it is not a perfect world. He cited “serious deterioration issues” with the pool and costs to restore it.
“Is it a place where you would send your children?” DeBerry asked.
Jones asked if the mayor was going to ask Rust College to provide swimming and the mayor said he had asked McMillan to approach the college administration.
“No,” McMillan said. “I think the city is capable of having its pool. Would the board entertain a citizens committee to bring to you (suggestions)?”
DeBerry said he believes the board of aldermen has done an adequate analysis and McMillan’s assertion that the city does not want to open the pool is unfounded.
“I don’t think you are hearing me,” McMillan said.
“I am not going to empower a committee,” said DeBerry, “but if you want to do that and bring it to the board, you can.”
“Would this board be willing to listen to a citizens committee report?” McMillan asked.
“I would gladly disseminate it (the report) to the board,” DeBerry said.
Ronne Robinson was next up. She asked the board “to exhaust every effort” before deciding to raze the pool, saying the city should do everything possible to give children something to do.
DeBerry said the city is providing summer activities for children and they are “not jumping the fence to get into the pool.”
Historical data shows that only 75 students participated in the pool when it was last open, he said.
“Seventy-five students is not a significant number of children in the city,” he said. “If the pool is not good enough for the board’s children, it is not good enough for the others. We don’t want to close the pool, but we have to be realistic.”
Claude Vinson clarified that Red Cross certified water safety instructors are not required by insurance providers, but that lifeguards must be trained by Red Cross certified instructors.
Alfred Moore offered that Latter Rain Church has insurance on its pool. He brought up another concern.
“My concern is the number of kids that come out at night after 6 on Chesterman,” he said. “We almost need a police substation. Hundreds of children are in the street at once and they have started snatching purses.”
DeBerry said several streets in the city are high crime areas and the police chief would address the matter.
Moore clarified that there are no sidewalks on Chesterman and the children are walking in the street.
“Someone is going to get run over,” he said.
The mayor offered that the city will discuss a comprehensive sidewalk plan in this summer’s budget deliberations.
“I appreciate all concerns, but please understand that decisions are difficult,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we have to do what is prudent and legal. It is my responsibility to enforce the laws and protect the safety of the city.”
Alderman Naylond Hayes, a solid pool advocate, weighed in on the pool talk.
He said Oxford has several pools and provides lifeguards - that Latter Rain church provides lifeguards - that no water safety instructor is required by insurance providers.
“We have a person here in the audience who is a certified lifeguard,” he said. “That pool can be patched with epoxy in the bottom. It will be safe. If we want to open that pool, we can open that pool.”
“Insurance companies won’t write you,” DeBerry said.
Hayes suggested all possible insurance providers be sought until one will write a policy.
Attorney Ki Jones asked if the citizens committee would seek out insurance information also.
“Yes,” said McMillan.
Hayes suggested approaching Latter Rain Church to partner with the city and share its pool.
Alderman-At-Large Tim Liddy liked the idea, saying it will take $75,000 to repair the city’s pool.
“The pool is in the same shape as in 1982,” Hayes said. “I wonder who got the person to do the quote?”
“The recreation director,” said DeBerry.
Alderman Russell Johnson suggested the citizens committee do some research and report to the board.
“I’m a little bit perturbed,” said DeBerry. “I think it is an unfair characterization that the board is not concerned about kids.”
In other business, the board:
Pearson passed on to the board a letter from police officers requesting a pay increase. He said he did not solicit the letter but was asked to present it and that the loss of officers to other jurisdictions (due to low salaries in the city) is a cause of concern for his department.
DeBerry accepted the letter and said the board would consider raises during budget deliberations this summer.
John Collins, general manager of the utility department, said the average residential customer can expect the electricity bill to increase by $1.50 per 1,000 KWH and the average commercial customer will see an increase of $1.47 per 1,000 KWH.
The Holly Springs Utility Department is not raising its rates.
The last rate increase coming April 1, 2008, came to a total of about 12 percent after combining the TVA fuel cost adjustment, the general TVA rate increase, and the HSUD rate increase, Collins said.
This TVA fuel cost adjustment coming July 1 reflects a 2.1 increase in electricity rates.
Collins said this increase is due to sustained drought conditions combined with higher than expected fuel costs from January through March 2008.
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