Newton pool to open again

Newton will spend $42,600 before July 1 to open and operate the city’s public swimming pool this summer.
Newton City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to invest money toward salaries, supplies and maintenance, as well as improvements required by the Catawba County Health Department. The pool is forecast to earn about $2,800 from public swimming and day camps during June.
“A pool is extremely expensive as it compares to other recreational activities,” said Newton Mayor Pro Tem Anne Stedman. “A pool is expensive, and it is going to be an ongoing huge expense. I am willing to open it this year, but I think we ought to do a real intense study of it.”
Newton Mayor Robert Mullinax indicated that serious consideration for the future of the pool should occur after the 2011 swim season. After the city’s pool was closed in summer 2010, discussion concerning plans for this year were first introduced during Newton City Council’s April 19 meeting.
“I am in favor of opening the pool ... if we don’t open the pool this year, then, in my opinion, we are through with it,” he said. “We need to make an intelligent, informed decision — do we stay in the pool business? If we are going to be through with it, then we need to have a discussion that is not at the start of the pool season.”
Council member Mary Bess Lawing supported the pool, but encouraged improved marketing of the city facility.
“The pool has to be marketed,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be the best kept secret in the county. ... We can provide something (people) can’t get anywhere else in the county — a public swimming pool.”
Before the pool can open, renovations must be made.
“The Catawba County Health Department is requiring the city to install grates on top of the stainless steel guttering around the periphery of the pool,” Newton City Manager Todd Clark said in a memo to City Council. “This requirement was confirmed by city staff with the health department following the City Council’s last meeting.”
Those improvements alone will cost $15,000. Other required improvements include replacement of eight mirrors with unbreakable glass at a cost of $1,500. A wall under the pool shelter must also be enclosed.
Additional fencing and a handicapped accessible ramp won’t be required for the pool to open this year, Clark said. Newton Recreation Director Sandra Waters previously told City Council those upgrades may be required.
In addition to spending $15,000 for grates to cover the pool’s stainless steel gutter, the city budgeted $12,600 for wages, FICA, Medicare, uniforms and whistles for six part-time lifeguards. Under the budget plan, guards will be paid $9.54 per hour to work seven days a week, for five weeks prior to July 1. However, City Council directed recreation staff to plan for closing the pool on Sundays, when Waters said attendance is normally down.
Among other expenses that will be added to the city’s fiscal year 2010-11 budget are$8,500 for pool chemicals, $3,500 on vending machines and concessions and $1,800 on pool maintenance and repairs.
The city will also need to budget funds during the fiscal year beginning July 1 to operate the pool through the remainder of the 2011 swimming season, Clark said.
Stedman said this year’s pool season will be a test. She asked Waters to provide information on pool attendance and usage.
“It is under-utilized, and we have seen usage go down,” she said, adding that the recreation department staff should explore opportunities for additional usage, such as senior water aerobics classes that can be a companion to the city’s existing seniors and fitness programs.
Lawing also said the should pool be made available to outside groups that want to sponsor an event for parties or employee gatherings.
“Somehow we need to get information out to other municipalities in the area,” she said. “We need to be a leader. We are the county seat. We need to lead.”