City considers swimming pool
Alderman Tim Liddy and public works director Will Denton reported to the Holly Springs mayor and board on a trip to Charleston, S.C., where they studied the feasibility of building an aquatics/wellness center in the city.
The seminar, entitled “Build A Pool,” was put on by USA Swimming. It supports swimming at local centers in order to develop competitive swimmers, teach people to swim and improve physical fitness.
“We were there to learn how to build a pool and (how to determine) what we want,” Liddy said.
The board, he said, also must decide if the public wants what the city wants – is there a demand?
“We need to decide if this is the best use for revenue from the tourism tax,” Liddy said.
Demographic studies indicate people are willing to drive on the average of about 30 minutes to get to an aquatics center to work out. Liddy said experts at the seminar advised to decide first the program wanted, then build a facility to fit the program.
“To do it right, you need two pools – a warm-water pool and a cool-water pool for laps,” the alderman said.
A smaller, warm-water pool would be for things like swimming lessons, aerobics, rehab and scuba diving and kayaking lessons.
A warm-water pool is used most by the community and generates income.
The smaller pool comes closer to paying for itself, although Tupelo subsidizes its pool.
A larger, cool-water pool would be for laps, exercise and swim teams. There is only four to five degrees difference in the two pools, but the people need a cooler pool to do laps. An eight- to 10-lane pool is needed for laps. The cost of construction ranges from $5 million to $15 million.
Cities can offer a Learn to Swim program for those who do not swim and want to learn. Liddy said in Tupelo, the city, the schools and private pool owners collectively set a goal for everyone to learn to swim.
A year-round facility is best, he added.
The water temperature for competitive swimming should be from 78 degrees Fahrenheit to 82, and between 85 and 87 for non-competitive swimming. The air temperature should be two degrees warmer than the water in order to keep water from condensing on steel beams and windows.
The city should generate enough revenue from the warm-water pool to pay for the cool-water pool.
In contrast, outdoor pools are used about three months out of the year and will not generate enough revenue in the summer to pay off the pool.
The building housing the pool can also serve as a multipurpose facility. An attachment for kids and slides (kiddie pool) can be added. A wall can be taken out if the area is to be enlarged.
Staffing and accessories are major expenses.
The pool has to be kept strictly hygienic by the staff.
“You can’t have odors,” Liddy said. “You need a director, an assistant director, then a technical person to manage the pumps. Water must be kept clean and the job of pool management is a daily, yearround job.
A receptionist is also needed. Liddy said Tupelo has four full-time staff, 25 lifeguards off season and 40 in season.
The city would need a consultant to advise on what size pool it could afford.
Denton said the main expense is in pool or facility maintenance.
“It can easily be a drain on your budget if you don’t bring in revenue,” Liddy said.
In Tupelo, city school children don’t pay for lessons, while the ones from the county do, he said. They have an Angel’s program to collect donations and prices are set for individual swimmers and private and group lessons.
“The city would have to fund construction and the dayto-day operations would be paid for by fees,” Liddy said.
Other funding options are to rent the facility to physical therapists, for swimming lessons and more, plus include a meeting room/classroom for rental.
“There is no free water (swimming),” he said.
Tupelo uses one lifeguard per 25 kids for parties, Liddy said.
Alderman Bernita Fountain asked how to get it started and if there are grants available.
Owens asked if the project would sustain itself.
Liddy said a formula is used to decide what size pool and the ongoing expenses that would be sustainable.
“We live in the least expensive place to build a pool,” he said.
Owens asked about lockers and towels.
Liddy said restrooms, showers, toilets, sinks, lockers would be required.
Owens asked if there are exercise areas like a YMCA has for income generation.
Liddy said Tupelo’s dream scenario considered swimming and exercise areas, but once the program was laid out, they scaled their plan back to just the pool.
Mayor Kelvin Buck thanked Liddy and Denton for the report.
“We are at the initial stages,” he said. “Anything worth having would cost money. The key is to make sure to do it right and within our means.”
He noted that the city once had a pool and the community wanted it.
He said adults and seniors could benefit from the pool.
“It is an option and we do not have to raise taxes to do it,” he said. “We already have enough gyms.”
And there are possible partners such as Alliance Health-Care. Fees will be required to sustain it. Youth learning to swim would be a very important goal. And recreation would be good. Pool parties would go over well, he predicted.
“This is a quality of life, a quality of place issue,” Buck said.
Everything the city offers costs money, he said, and it would cost money to operate a pool. He discounted the value of an outdoor pool that would only be used in the summer months.
And the location of the pool must be in an area acceptable to all people -– that is where everyone would be comfortable.
“I go from town to town all the time and it could make people interested in the town,” the mayor said.
He noted that people on vacation pick a hotel or motel that has a good pool for their children to play in.
He warned aldermen to not “study something to death.”
“It’s not really that complicated,” Buck said. “Swimming pools have been around for a long time. When the pool closed before, people were very upset about it. Don’t run away from this opportunity if you think it’s going to cost money. I think money is here for this. We could phase it in.”
Liddy said one big expense is land and the city has land and a revenue stream, the tourism tax.
Buck said money is always an issue and added that the pool would be in line with the legislation that allowed the city to collect a tourism tax (which was used to build and pay off the Eddie Lee Smith Multi-Purpose Center).
“These pools don’t get cheaper; they get higher,” Buck said.