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Newton tests swimming pool waters

April 20, 2011

To swim or not to swim?

That is the question facing Newton city leaders for the second straight year.

Tight fiscal times are making the decision to open the Newton Recreation Department swimming pool a difficult one.

"We did not open the pool last year because of budgetary constraints, and we talked about how we would try to open it again this year," said Newton Mayor Robert Mullinax. "I think we need to open the swimming pool."

Council member Mary Bess Lawing wants to see the pool opened again, as well.

"That is part of what taxpayers pay for. That is something they can see a use for," she said. "There are many children in this city who have no access to a pool and many adults. If we need to take money from somewhere else, that pool needs to be open."

Opening the pool will require a hefty investment by the city. Newton City Manager Todd Clark said it will cost about $65,000 to open and operate the pool throughout the fiscal year that begins July 1. If the pool is going to open in time to serve swimmers during the 10-week season of summer 2011, Newton could face an additional bill of up to $23,000.

"In order to open the swimming pool ... we have to bring some things into compliance," said Newton Recreation Director Sandra Waters.

Among needed improvements required by the county's health department is a taller fence, Waters said. The pool is currently enclosed by a 3-foot tall fence, but it needs to be 5-feet tall, she said. Adding sufficient height to 111 feet of the fence would cost $3,000, she said.

Waters said the county's health department has "asked" the city to make other improvements, including the addition of a handicapped-accessible ramp for the pool at a cost of $8,000 and improvements to the stainless steel gutter around the pool at a cost of $12,000. Waters could not say whether those improvements would be mandatory for the pool to open.
The city previously completed a couple of rounds of repair projects. In 2008, Newton completed $9,800 in renovations to improve drain safety, as required by new federal legislation.

Before that, in 2006, the city completed $140,000 in renovations to the pool's floor and pump system, as required by state regulations. Those pool improvements also added fiberglass steps, depth markings on the pool sides and deck, and a $34,000 two-flume slide structure.

Following those comprehensive renovations, in summer 2007, the pool saw attendance increase 71 percent and revenue increase 25 percent, Newton Recreation Department officials told City Council in late July 2007.
For the summer ahead, that kind of rebound might be tough to achieve, Waters said.

"(Summer camps) start in June, and they will be inquiring next month," she said. "That is another issue we will be faced with. Being closed for the (2010) summer, they have gone other places."

Uncertainty over other programs, such as Catawba County Community Schools, could further dampen attendance for the swimming pool, she said. Further, usage during the weekends and later in the summer typically declines, Waters said.

With those factors in mind, Waters created a conservative revenue estimate for Council members. According to that estimate, she expects the pool to collect $2,800 during four operational weeks in June, including $1,300 collected from day campers using the pool. If those estimates are spread out during the summer season, and revenues remain steady, the pool could yield $7,000 in revenue.

If the pool doesn't open during the summer ahead, the city will still need to invest $12,000-$16,000 per year to keep water and chemicals in the pool to maintain the facility. Alternately, the city could permanently close the pool.

"If the city is at a point where it is not going to have a swimming pool anymore, we need to decide that," Mullinax said. "We need to decide, are we going to have a pool or not have a pool?"

Facing an annual expense of about $65,000 — not including $23,000 in "worst-case" scenario renovations that Waters said are required — Newton Mayor Pro Tem Anne Stedman said the operation is expensive.

"To commit $65,000 to the pool every year is a lot of money," she said, adding she is not ready to "cover it up." "I think the pool is a great thing to have. It is just very expensive."

Newton City Council directed Waters to find out exactly what the county's health department will require for Newton to open the pool, as well as a renovation cost estimate.

"Find out what you have to spend," Mullinax said. "We will call a meeting; we will come back; and the Council will decide."

Comments

Newton Swimming Pool

April 26, 2011 by Gail B, 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 355

A long time resident of Newton, having taught my two children to swimm in this pool. Yes, my Husband was the Director and each night,the routine of back flushing the pool had to be done. No big deal, Yes, my son, was swimming at age 2.5 and diving off the high board ( 15 Feet above the water,)at age three, Yes to this day,he still enjoys the water, and ever child should have this experience,to instill, self confidence. You never know,when you will need this skill,So let us stop harping on funds, ect, and make it a have too in the budget,The citizens of Newton, owe it to the children and future leaders of this city,

Newton Pool

April 21, 2011 by ryray (not verified), 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 336

I can remember learning how to swim as a "guppie" at the Newton pool back in the 70's. Since that time so long ago, I have used that basic skill to SCUBA dive many interesting locations in the Carribbean and Atlantic and to help a few people out when they were having difficulty while they swam. Thanks to the Newton pool I have seen century old ships, color fish and plant life that the average citizen only sees on TV because they taught me to swim.

The people of Newton need that necessary expense. If you keep a child from drowning because they received swimming lessons it would be money well spent.

I bet with the economy still down and gas hitting $4 a gallon more folks would be willing to play around the pool as they won't be able to vacation at other water attractions around the state.

Opening of Swimming Pool

April 21, 2011 by K.C. Hartman, 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 334

I know that the expense of the pool seems high but when all things are considered it seems like a fair cost. This is a location that can be used by the young and old alike.

The city has seen no problem with spending over $250,000.00 on a walking trail between Radio Statio Road and Hwy 10 West. This project was to have cost $125,000.00 total and the state was to pay $100,000.00 and the city was to pay $25,000.00 as their part. Information I have obtained shows that the city has spent $150,000.00 on this project and that is not including the $100,000.00 furnished by the state grant.

The city also has over $771,000.00 invested in the Jacob Fork Park and still needs to spend over $250,000.00 to light the softball fields. With the money the city has spent in these other areas it seems reasonable that the children of this community should have the receration center pool open for their use and enjoyment.

Great Points

April 21, 2011 by LeeHarper (not verified), 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 335

There are small parks through Newton that have been stripped of playground toys and picnic tables, they really serve no purpose except being an expense and burden to the city.

I have said it once and will say it again. If our firefighters need to be paid to jog, lift weights, and do other excercises; let them push mow the cemetaries and parks. Hard work and fresh air is the best form of excercise.

Do we pay our police officers to work out? They have a physical job too.

Cut from somewhere else

April 21, 2011 by TySlothrop (not verified), 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 333

"If we need to cut money from somewhere else, that pool needs to be open."
Great idea.
How about cutting money the city pays to insure City Council members, who work, what? Two days per month?
Or their salaries?
According to page 13 of the budget, here: http://www.newtonnc.gov/docs/2010-2011_Approved_Budget_Manual.pdf, that amounts to $36,900 (salaries $8400, insurance $28500).
If the city wants to find some places to cut, the insurance alone would pay for repairs.

Easy Target

April 21, 2011 by LeeHarper (not verified), 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 329

Our esteemed city officials need to look at other areas to save money than the city pool. Follow the lead of our Bev Perdue and ask each department head to cut 10% and for each department head to take a 10% cut in pay.

Not one department head would leave for a 10% loss of pay. The cost of finding another job, relocating, and the threat of actually having to work hard will keep them here.

Our swimming pool needs to be open. Yes it might be under utilized but it is a service that the city should provide because we all can have our own swimming pools. I learned to swim there, my children learned, and future generations should learn there too.

If the city wants out of the pool business, privatize it. Have a business come in and run the pool, just don't let it fall into disrepair. Make it fun and attractive to come to the pool. Offer pool parties, family activities, play music and have a festive atmosphere where people want to be there. Advertise the pool in through social media so people can learn about it. Heck, get private money to underwrite some of the costs. Have businesses like Outdoor Supply Company from Hickory come and give canoe/kayak trials in the pool just to get some interest and exposure. There are tons of ideas out there.

Slashing is easy, reinventing is a challenge. Newton leaders; step up to the challenge. The city needs to learn to honor commitments and cut out extravagant spending.

Great ideas Lee

April 21, 2011 by Inkslinger (not verified), 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 330

Maybe you should think about writing a letter to the editor of The O-N-E (onenews@observernewsonline.com) and share those thoughts with the community. Better yet, Newton City Council has a "open comment" session during every meeting. Visit a meeting and share those ideas publicly. Generating public conversation is a great way to impact change.

How about...

April 21, 2011 by Backbone (not verified), 2 years 51 weeks ago
Comment: 328

a. We cut aout the aimless driving around by trucks of certain City departments wasting expensive fuel.
b. We canx the stupid "Unity Day" and all the other silly multi-cultural and hand wringer pagents and events.
c. We save on Police expenses by running off the Illegal Aliens and the burgeoning criminal gang activities
d. We amalgamate the Fire and Police into a Public Safety Agnecy with ONE vice TWO support systems.
e. We save money by re-energizing the the Volunteer Fire FIghters and cut back on the full time firemen.
f. Put back parking meters downtown to raise revenue.
g. Privatize the utilities
H. THEN WE HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO OPEN THE DAWG GONE POOLS SO MIDDLE CLASS AND POOR KIDS CAN LEARN TO SWIM!

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