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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Carolina Beach Council Votes To Take Next Step In Planning Pool Project

Carolina Beach Council Votes To Take Next Step In Planning Pool Project

Rendering of a proposed 204,000 gallon, 25 yard, 8-lane, NCAA compliant swimming pool to be located adjacent to the Town's recreation center.

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council approved taking the next step in the process of planning for a community swimming pool at their April 9th meeting.
The Carolina Beach Community Pool Steering Committee gave a presentation to the Town Council on a proposal to build a swimming pool adjacent to the Town's Recreation Center behind Town Hall on land already owned by the Town.
Highlights include a 204,000 gallon, 25 yard, 8-lane, NCAA compliant swimming pool complemented by a zero entry shallow end, ADA accessible ramp, and 9’ diving well. The facility would be open in the Summer and covered by a “bubble” enclosure in the winter for year-round use. Access to the facility will be through the existing rec center entryway and a covered walkway that leads to the pool.  Leveraging the existing check-in desk would reduce the annual admin cost of running the facility. It would also include locker rooms, storage building with an open design, separate admin counter that can be utilized for concessions, and a family changing room.
The committee sent out surveys in utility bills earlier this year and held community meetings including one at the Katie B. Hines Senior Center.
Committee member Duke Hagestrom said, "The majority of the community has expressed interest in a swimming pool – 55% percent are in favor which is much larger than the typical 30% in most average communities according to the USA Swimming “Build a Pool” workshop.  A large number of those who said “No” had a caveat that they would be in support of the facility if it wouldn’t be a burden to tax payers.  Another group that said “No” indicated their displeasure with some of the Town’s infrastructure and water quality."
Hagestrom explained, "As highlighted in the Town’s Park and Rec Master Plan, the NRPA and NCDENR suggest a pool for every 20,000 residents.  There are over 70,000 residents between Pleasure Island and the closest YWCA pool."
Hagestrom said parking can be accommodated on site and for large events parking could be facilitated at the neighboring church or other nearby locations.
He said, "Cost of construction is estimated to range from approximately $900,000 to $1.15 million. Cost of operations is estimated to range from $289,000 to $314,000 per year. Income is estimated to range from $232,000 to $366,000 per year."
He said the Rec Center currently has over 1,500 members and revenue projections were based on checking with other pools in the area and using conservative estimates of between 30 and 50% of the revenue they can achieve.
He said, "The bottom line is our most likely scenario would see the Town breaking even with a swing of about $50,000 one way or the other."
Fees would be higher for non-residents. Infrequent users could purchase passes while frequent users could purchase membership packages of $200 for resident individuals and $340 for resident families for year round use. Also, a 15% discount for seniors, 20% discount for members of the pool and rec center and visitor passes for guests of $10 per person or $30 per family.
Revenues would also be generated by various programs such as scuba diving classes and swim team events.
Mayor Bob Lewis said he looked at the numbers and had a different opinion. He said, "There will be a ramp up period that will cost us a little money from the Town budget." He said, "In the first year of operation... I don't think it will be a break even" but there are other revenue options mentioned that could cover the costs.
Many residents spoke in favor of the project and the room was filled with children and families there to support the pool.
One resident, Darren Elkins, said he believes in the pool as a public asset for the community, but he's concerned with the issue of debt and taxpayers would be burdened with any loss, not just the advocates of the project.
He said the marketing presentation to council was great, but asked Council to consider if the numbers are right, it should justify investors doing it.
Mayor Lewis said it's not a done deal and there will be more review of the numbers when planning for next years budget.
Councilman Tom Bridges said he was hesitant to approve of any stage of the process pending planning for the annual budget and perhaps just ask the staff to come back with financial numbers for review.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth made a motion, "To approve a community pool subject to review and acceptance by the Council of the impact on the Town's annual budget. To direct staff with the ad-hoc committee to complete the final construction drawings and obtain all final bids and structure a loan and terms with a lend and Local Government Commission approval for final council action and that would be the requirement then to review those loan terms that would see somewhere in the next couple of weeks we should hear the impact of a potential loan on the budget."
He said, "The reality is the Town could write a check. That option hasn't been fully vetted. The Town is required by law, by state statute, to have an 8% reserve. The Town charter was amended to make it 40%. The Town currently has a 52% reserve. The Town could, and Council hasn't had a willingness, but the Town could and has the wherewithal to do that. The Town currently holds a 6% debt ratio compared to its lending capacity. Although the numbers may look large, in fact with the tax rate last year being under revenue neutral, the Town is in a position to do that."
He said, "For me it is a quality of life issue."
Shuttleworth said to get the final drawings he guessed it would cost $15,000 to $20,000.
Bridges said, "When we're not looking at a budget and we've only had one workshop about the budget and we're not going to have another one until the 22nd of this month, I thought it was a little early for us to consider any of this. I favored not having any vote so that I didn't have to vote against it."
He said, "I don't think we should approve anything at this point, not yet."
Mayor Lewis said the Council could delay it for a month to get a better idea of where they stand on the budget for 2013-2014 and the impact of that project.
Shuttleworth said in order to know what the loan amount is, the final construction documents and bids have to come first. After that the Council would have to vote to approve moving forward with financing.
Town Manager Bruce Shell said the bottom line question from the Local Government Commission is if the revenues are not there, and there's a loss, how are you going to pay for that. The answers is, the Town would be prepared to absorb that shortfall. You can't abandon the asset once you have the debt.
The Council voted unanimously on Shuttleworth's motion.