City to plunge into pool talk

After committing $127,850 toward a swimming pool that earned $7,331 during summer 2011, Newton leaders are preparing to consider the future of Catawba County's only remaining public swimming facility.

And when Newton City Council discusses the city pool during a meeting tonight, it won't get much help from the city's recreation commission.

During summer 2011, Newton's swimming pool was open 55 days, and welcomed an average of 32 swimmers from the general public, according to Newton Recreation Department. Total attendance for the summer was 1,798, and that attendance came after Newton City Council made a May 2011 decision to invest $42,600 toward opening the pool in June 2011. Newton's spending plan also includes planned investments of $85,250 to operate the pool during summer 2012, including $17,400 for purchase and installation of equipment required to make the facility handicapped accessible.

After the May decision to open the pool for summer 2011, "Council specifically requested that the (Parks and Recreation) Commission make a recommendation on whether to permanently close the pool or continue repairs," according to a memo to Newton City Manager Todd Clark from the Newton Parks and Recreation Commission.

Newton's recreation commission met Dec. 12 and "discussed the swimming pool at great length," the commission reported in its memo to Clark.

Among topics were whether the city has purchased equipment to make the pool handicapped accessible; whether the Council will approve funding for operation of the pool going forward; and whether money appropriated for the swimming pool could be better spent to upgrade other recreation department facilities and programs.

Newton Recreation Commission is scheduled to hold meetings the second Tuesday of each month, and the panel is a volunteer group appointed by Newton's mayor and city council. Members of the commission are not publicized on the city's website.

After the Dec. 12 meeting the recreation commission could not decide the best future for the pool.

"The recreation commission realizes certain upgrades will constantly be needed to repair and maintain the pool in accordance with federal and state guidelines," the recreation commission wrote in its memo to Clark. "While a majority of the commission members generally support the pool and its continual operation, they are not prepared to make a formal recommendation."

Instead, the recreation commission asks Newton City Council to make a decision on the pool's future operation. City council is slated to discuss that topic when it meets at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of Newton City Hall.

Other agenda items tonight include:

* Consideration of the city's annual fire department membership roster and department certifications.
* An update on progress toward the city's historic district designation for downtown