Thursday, July 10, 2014

Providence Council votes to keep pool open in August

Mayor Gooch says measure not feasible

Providence City Council breezed through a short agenda with just four council members on hand during regular session Monday night in the council chambers.
Mayor Eddie Gooch was also absent from the meeting.

City Attorney Richard Peyton called the meeting to order and Councilwoman Shannon Layton nominated fellow Councilwoman Dolores Overby to preside over the meeting with the absence of Mayor Gooch.
First order of business was an update on the city’s continued efforts to obtain proper funding from Verizon for 911 Emergency cell phones calls, which are currently being routed to the Webster County 911 Dispatch Center. It was noted in the last council meeting that the city simply needed a signature from Webster County Judge Executive Jim Townsend in order for the “funding switch” to be complete. 
“With Judge Townsend out of town, we haven’t received the signature but I did talk with a Verizon representative in Atlanta and we received a verbal agreement in order for us to receive the funding,” noted Providence 911 Director Brad Curry. “He couldn’t give me an exact date but he said he would expedite that the paperwork so we could begin receiving the money as soon as possible.”
In other business, Councilman Doug Hammers asked Peyton that if private citizens erected “Children At Play, Please Slow Down” signs on their property, would their be a liability issue fall back onto the city in case of an accident. During its last meeting, the council gave permission to several residents along Barbour and Bradley streets to position the signs along the streets because of the many children playing in the area and the increased traffic and the speed of that traffic.
“The city really doesn’t allow children to play in the streets and I would think there would be a reasonable effort to enforce the speed limit in those areas,” Peyton explained. “If there’s a dangerous situation, then we should take some action to diminish the problem such as signs and police patrols in the area. With these efforts, I don’t foresee any liability on the city.”
Councilman Keith Farrell gave praise to city workers on the upkeep of Lakeview Cemetery. Council members had received several complaints about its condition the past few months.
“I’ve had several residents tell me how nice it looks, well-trimmed and mowed and I just want to compliment our workers for their efforts,” Farrell stated.
He also asked if the swimming pool at the Providence Municipal Golf & Recreation Center could remain open on weekends through Labor Day. The pool is currently scheduled to close after the first weekend of August, or when school is back in session.
“I think it would be a good thing to keep the pool open, especially for those folks who have purchased a family pass. August is sometimes our hottest month and it would be nice to allow people to swim on the weekends. Right now I think we’re cutting it (swim season) short,” Farrell added.
Councilwoman Overby stated that previous councils had visited this issue and two problems arose ... availability of lifeguards and costs of keeping the pool open for the time period.
Public Works Director David May agreed.
“It’s about the profit/loss factor. You have to spend the same amount of money to keep the pool open for the entire week but you only receive income for those swimming on the weekend. You can’t recover your costs for the chemicals you put in and we’ve always had a problem with staffing of lifeguards as well,” May explained.
With further discussion, Farrell made a motion to keep the pool open on weekends through Labor Day. The motion passed with a 4-0 vote.
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Eddie Gooch contacted The J-E and explained that this measure would have to be cancelled due to the costs of keeping the pool open.
Gooch explained that when the city took over the pool, during the first two seasons they tried to keep it open during the weekends but lifeguard availability was a big issue but the main drawback was the loss of money.
“It cost the city about $2,000 each year to keep the pool open for the month of August. That $2,000 could have been spent for something else, other services for our residents,” Gooch explained. “I have enough faith in our council that they would have never passed this motion if they were presented the facts. It sounds like a great idea, but we just can’t lose $2,000 in a month for the very few people who swim on the weekends during that month.”
Gooch noted that PMG&RC Director Jon Garrett kept a very accurate check on the pool during those two years and the number of people using the pool dropped dramatically once school began.
“The numbers of swimmers fell from about 50 people per day to maybe just five or six on the weekends once school was in session. Right now the pool is a pretty much ‘break even’ situation financially ... and that’s fine ... we knew that when we bought the club. It’s there for everyone to enjoy during the summer and we feel its a great thing for the citizens of Providence. But we just can’t justify losing $2,000 during August to keep it open on just the weekends,” Mayor Gooch added. “The day-to-day operations of the city comes down to the Mayor and I just think to close the pool once schools begins is the best decision for the city. I understand what the council was wanting to do and I applaud them for trying to provide for our citizens. But it’s just not feasible for the city to keep the pool open during August.”
In final business, the council approved the appointment of Paula Glover to the Tourism Commission. She will replace Doug Hammers who had to resign his two-year term since being elected to the city council.
Councilwoman Overby also had high praise for the annual July 4 fireworks display.
“I think it was the best show ever and I’ve had many, many people tell me that as well. It was just spectacular and I want to thank everyone involved for a great job,” she stated.

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