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Candidate Statement On Swimming Pool Sparks Debate On Facebook

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Election season is underway and already the candidates are debating various issues. On Tuesday July 9, Carolina Beach Town Council candidate Mike Worley commented on his Facebook campaign page, "Well, since the pool seems to be a top concern, I am gonna go ahead and dive into this issue head first. (No pun intended). I think the idea of having a community pool is great, but not at this time. I believe there are more pertinent issues that need to be dealt with. I feel the only fair way to survey the residents of Carolina Beach is to allow us to vote on it in November or through a special referendum. Let's take a page from the city of Wilmington and the baseball stadium and let the voters decide. Looking forward to your input."
Local resident Ryan Powell explained, "I agree 100%. The thought of the town spending a million dollars or however much on a pool when I am too scared to drink the water out of my faucet drives me crazy. I'm born and raised in this town and it even disgusts me. That is just one of many examples of things that need to be addressed before we build a lap pool. I'm really glad you decided to run and will help in any way I can to get some common sense on this council. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help."
Carolina Beach Town Councilman Steve Shuttleworth explained, "Mike, unfortunately the Carolina Beach Town Charter doesn't allow for a voter referendum to be on the ballot. As you know I am a supporter of the pool and have encouraged the town to host open houses to gather input, a survey (which some want to discount) a poll through the Island Gazette, all in an effort to gage public support. I believe there will be additional opportunities for input. Have you had a chance to attend any of the town open houses on the pool? Have you reviewed the financial proformas or review the financial costs and income data?"
Shuttleworth explained, "As to the water and sewer (infrastructure) issue you mentioned in a prior post, everyone I know including council want to see improvement. You might not be aware that recently Town Council approved a water and sewer capital replacement plan that has been in the works for almost 12 months. The plan will replace over 5 miles of both water and sewer lines throughout all the older residential neighborhoods between Lake Park and Dow Road from approximately Sumter to Goldsboro. This will make significant improvements to water quality. To implement this and keep it on track, on time and on budget the Town just hired a new utility director who has tremendous experience in capital construction over site."
Mayor Bob Lewis - seeking reelection in November - explained, "Mike, a North Carolina city's charter is an act of the North Carolina General Assembly, and normally only the General Assembly can amend one of its own acts. Under North Carolina State Statute our town would have to request the General Assembly in its next session to consider our request to amend our charter to include a referendum because it does not meet the 11 provisions listed in G.S. 160A-101. "The charter provisions that may be amended by a city council or city voters are listed in G.S. 160A-101, and that listing is exclusive. If a council or a city's voters wish to amend the city's charter to make some sort of change not included in the listing, the council or the voters must request the General Assembly to make the change. The charter change statute is not available to them" It can be done just will take time and positioning with our legislators in Raleigh."
Lewis explained, "I tried this route before when a former council member was pushing to have the town buy additional land. Here is what my research found. I agree with the idea that the voters should have a choice."
In fact Town's in North Carolina can hold bond referendums for parks and recreation projects. The Town of Morrisville held a 2012 referendum for street improvements and for renovations for their Aquatics and Fitness Center. That included a new enclosed pool an interior renovations. Also, it covered adding new amenities such as tennis courts, horseshoe pits, Frisbee golf and greenway extension for a community park. $14.3 million for the street improvements and $5.7 million for the pool and parks improvements.
Sally Jo Glendenning commented, "In reading the actual details of where the water improvements are planned in Steve Shuttleworth's comments, I am even more concerned as I was under the impression that our entire system was to be replaced. What is the plan for those residential areas in places north and east of where the improvements are planned? I am referring to those of us along the north end where water outages are commonplace. What about our neighbors along St. Joseph's, Pleasure Cay, Harper Ave, Cape Fear Blvd, etc.? I'm sorry,  I strongly feel that our poor water situation should have a solid plan mapped out before any plans for a public pool even attempts to be voted on. That's my 2 cents worth."
Mayor Lewis explained, "Sally Jo, Steve only outlined the major area needing total repair and replacement. All of the water lines are going to connect to a new main water treatment facility. We replaced the water pipes on the North End a couple years ago. The problem is we cannot pump the water to that area with good pressure and water quality without getting PVC pipe installed throughout the entire system. We are also going to loop all the non-loop areas as well - issues on St Joseph. We are also replacing the ground water storage tank and build a centralized treatment plant. The problems is all the old galvanized pipe which is leaking causing problems. We also have had some builders busting through our water system because the did not read the new line layout areas. You will see a huge improvement in the entire system when complete."
Local resident Rick McCloskey commented, "If anybody cares, Our number 1 priority on this Island is the beach. People come here for the beach, not a pool, not the boating, but 95% come for the beach! The boating takes a strong second, but probably less than 5%. So, this little Island thrives on the taxes and other input the tourists bring to use our beach. The Federal Government is turning off our beach re-nourishment dollars. So as a Tourist place, we have to come up with a way to raise millions of dollars on our own for beach re-nourishment. That my friends will save this Island. Without that, this place will die. We lost most of our beaches this year. If we get hit with one major storm, our beach could be gone, and so will the Tourist Biz! Our Public office people need to realize this, and quit thinking diverting any dollars to other projects. We need our Beach!"
McCloskey commented that someone had previously worked on getting several coastal towns together to buy and operate a dredge to maintain inlets along the coast due to elimination of federal funding.
Mayor Lewis explained, "Rick, Every Carolina Beach Council has over the past 9 years has brought up the subject of buying a dredge and even discussed it with the State of North Carolina. By Federal Law we could not even use a dredge as the Corps of Engineers has total authority over the waterways including the Inlet. The corps has decommissioned dredges and federal law does not even permit them to sell a dredge it must be sold off for scrap. Like everything else concerning our Federal Government it makes to much common sense."
McCloskey replied, "All right... so Bob ...Handle it, if you are Man enough."
Lewis replied, "Actually we have had [Congressman] Mike McIntyre and his staff evaluate the possibility under federal law of how the Corps of Engineers could provide project management and other government entities i.e. the states could execute a dredging contract. This is only if the Feds are no longer going to fund Storm Damage Reduction Projects and that issue has not been decided as yet by our Congress or the Senate. We do know FEMA is out of money and under funded after Sandy and other pervious natural disasters across the country and the Fed is looking at how it can balance a budget without adding Trillions of more dollars in debt. Maybe they make a turnaround on the dredge issue in the next 4-8 years. But you make a good point I am Man enough."
McCloskey replied, "Ya, What’s the plan Big Boy? Let's see if you actually are gonna fight for sand on the Island. Everybody is watching. Rubber meets the road here...Results..."
Lewis explained, "There is no big plan or leverage when you are the size of Carolina Beach. The big plan is the consortium we have formed with all of the North Carolina Coastal Communities in the last year and the development of an alliance with states all along the East Coast who are affected by beach erosion. No one small community is going to get it handled as you say. The coastal caucus is a start and we have reached out to SC, GA, FL, Virginia, Maryland and now NY and NJ to join in leveraging our congressman from all the East Coast states who count on beach nourishment and shallow draft inlet dredging through the Corps of Engineers. Carolina Beach along with Kure and Wrightsville and New Hanover County have been on the forefront of this issue since I have been on council. We have our own full time County Advocate who is being paid for out of Tourism Development Authority money to lobby in both Washington and Raleigh with all the elected officials in our region. I have been fighting and so has other members of this council and all of our members of the Carolina Beach Inlet Association of which I am a member. We are not just spewing words without taking action. We currently have two members of council including myself who not only attend CB Inlet Association Meetings but participate as paying members. We also solicited the help of Dennis Barbour to work with our council and attend meetings held in Washington and Raleigh with us as a representative boat Captain of the CB Inlet Association. You are so right Talk is Cheap...."
McCloskey commented, "I guess I hit a nerve, LOL You are sooo predictable, you are lucky I am not gonna run, I would crush you with Brains!"
Cindi Jacobs commented, "Obviously, Rick McCloskey, you have no love for the mayor, but are you really so naive to believe that the re-nourishment issues are his fault and that he can "fix" them? What's your real agenda?"
McCloskey wrote, "Have you ever run a $15m Biz?" and, "Hell No, But I have."
Mike Worley wrote, "This has been a great discussion, that's what I am looking for over the next 4 months. It looks like I've got even more reading and research to do concerning changing the town's charter (thanks Steve). I appreciate the input and information that has been posted. It is obvious we all care about our town and we can accomplish great things by working together for the common goal of making Carolina Beach and even better place to live. Keep the comments and ideas coming!"
McCloskey wrote , "Skill , is what we need.. People that actually can run a City."
Jill Kennen commented, "Then run! It's free country. Mayor Bob Lewis has my family behind him. See ya on Election Day!"
McCloskey wrote, "Cindi..I actually do like Bob. He has done some really good things. But wanta bring him to a higher level!" and, "When you ain't got the skills to run a $15M Biz, What you gonna do? Never did it?"
McCloskey wrote, "None of these people do? So are we gonna trust them with our money? They don't know how to do it?"
McCloskey wrote, "We need SKILLS!" and, "Its time for a change. We can be one of those comunities that stands out, and actuslly does something! Wanta make a change, let's hire Professionals with running a City, and not these "Less Than Average" people who don't know Biz!"
McCloskey wrote, "Most of them have all failed at Biz, so are we gonna trust them with our City?"
Mayor Lewis commented, "Rick, You and I have the same belief and I understand you are all about supporting Mike. I know a bit about Mike's business background as well and appreciate his accomplishments, but I have over 35 years of corporate management experience and currenlty work for the 3rd largest software company in the world running a region which generates over $50 Million dollars in revenue. I have been an equity partner in a business which we built from the ground up and sold to Dell for $38 Million. So $15M is a cake walk. I like your style...."
McCloskey wrote, "I am not suporting Mike. Get real dude."
Lewis wrote, "I like Mike and this is his Facebook Page I just assumed you liked Mike as well."
McCloskey wrote, "I like Mike as a person, but fail to see the Biz ezperience?" and, "Bob, you are quoting a companies experience with Dell, that was not your Biz, and you didn't build a company yourself... Big Difference."
McCloskey commented, "Whatever Dude, I know the people, You were never a player in that game! I got the phone numbers, you want to call the Players?" and, "You are Busted as a complete fabricator of the truth. We don't need that as our Mayor."
Mayor Lewis commented, "I did not quote any experience with Dell the company I worked for was acquired by Dell. Look it up on the old 10K's they are out there. That was 5 years ago. But you seem like a expert with a personal issue to grind with me. I get it."
Ryan Powell commented, "I would also like to bring up the quality of our roads that are not named Lake Park or Dow. To me having our roads and water quality improved should be #1 on the towns to do list. Give the residents quality infrastructure and I don't think people would have such an issue with a community pool. A pool is frosting but you have to have the flour and eggs to bake a cake."
In April 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.
The Council approved the next step in the process to complete the final construction drawings and obtain all final bids and structure a loan and terms with the Local Government Commission.
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.
During that April meeting Councilman Shuttleworth  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.
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.

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Mike Worley for CB Town Council 2013

Mayor Bob Lewis on Facebook

Steve Shuttleworth