Thursday, July 10, 2008
City closing pool
By SUE WATSON
After many discussions about the possibility of refurbishing the city swimming pool, the board of aldermen voted Tuesday, July 1, to officially close the facility.
Alderman Naylond Hayes, who has pushed three years to get the Valley Street pool repaired and reopened, was the only alderman opposed to closing the pool.
The city pool will likely be demolished soon. Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said the pool had many ongoing issues.
He said the board had investigated the possibility of renting the old country club pool. Grace Boatwright, agent of record for the city of Holly Springs, advised the board last week that the city would have to secure $1 million in liability insurance to rent the pool as a second insurer on the private owner’s $1 million policy. The four-foot fence would have to be raised to a height of six feet around the pool boundary, she said. Depth marker provisions are also required.
DeBerry, in summarizing arguments against the repair of the Valley Street pool, said the city had been given prior due notice that the pool posed “a clear and present danger.”
He said if anyone is injured at the closed facility the city could be charged with negligence.
For the record, DeBerry said his children did swim in the pool when it was open, but that today he would not ask any parent to let their child swim there.
“If it’s not good enough for mine, it is not good enough for yours,” he said.
He said there were environmental concerns, too, but did not elaborate.
Alderman Nancy Hutchens, in making the motion to officially close the pool, said money was left in last year’s budget to be used to close the pool.
“I think a waterpark activity would be better, like in surrounding towns,” she added.
Alderman Russell Johnson suggested the board “put something in the budget now for parks.”
“We may have to grow as we secure funds,” Hutchens added.
During presentation of candidates for two groundsmen positions in the Holly Springs Utility Department, Johnson asked general manager John Collins why no African Americans were candidates for the jobs and why he brought experienced candidates for an entry level position.
Collins responded that when jobs are advertised he has no idea who will actually apply. He said when he selects applicants those with experience are interviewed and at times recommended because an experienced applicant requires less training than an inexperienced one.
Johnson repeatedly asked Collins if the three white applicants for groundsmen were over qualified for the entry level position.
The current trend in hiring appears to reflect the race of the department head, Johnson said.
“Based on the race of the department head, the city departments tend to be majority black or majority white in racial composition now - that is the way we tend to recommend people, especially in the upper level positions,” Johnson said.
Johnson said his constituents have been asking him if enough blacks with minimal skills are being offered entry level positions in the utility department, where they would have an opportunity to gain skills and come up for promotions.
Collins said he was aware of the board’s expressed concerns that blacks be presented along with whites for consideration for entry level positions and has been bringing them forward to the board for consideration. He said aldermen had expressed no prior concerns regarding hiring practices at the utility.
In a separate interview following the meeting, Johnson amplified and clarified his position on the city’s hiring practices.
“I am very concerned about the hiring procedures and everything related to hiring,” he said. “All employees should have an opportunity to advance from entry level up - to move up both economically and professionally. I have said all along, all aspects of this city should reflect the racial makeup of the population.”
For the record, the city clerk’s office provided the following data concerning racial makeup citywide and by department as of July 2, as follows:
The racial makeup citywide came to 113 African Americans to 67 whites, with a ratio of 62.7 percent black to 37.2 percent white.
This does not include individuals approved for hiring at Tuesday’s meeting.
U.S. Census data from year 2000 report that there were 6,062 blacks, 1,815 whites, and 37 of other racial origin in the city of Holly Springs.
Countywide, the Census reports 17,622 African Americans, 16,925 whites, and 146 individuals of other racial origin.
The ratio of blacks to white in Holly Springs is about 3.34 to 1, while countywide, the ratio is 1.04 to 1.
The racial make-up of employees working for HSUD reflect more closely the racial demographic of the county (56 percent black, 44 percent white) and the areas served. Utilities - gas, water and electric - extend well beyond the boundaries of the city limits and serving both city and county residents.
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