Using Randolph Park in neighboring Pulaski County as a resource for information, Carroll County will continue to study the possibility of opening a new water park.
Carroll County shut down its swimming pool in the Carroll County Recreation Park in 2009 when county officials had to cut $1.6 million to balance its budget for Fiscal Year 2009-2010. County officials noted at the time that annual repairs on the pool’s water heater and other issues had actually caused the county to lose over $50,000 in each of the pool’s last two years. The pool area was torn down in 2011.
During the July meeting of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors, Bob Martin asked for the possibility of a referendum on the ballot in November to see if citizens thought Carroll County should proceed with constructing an outdoor swimming pool. A facebook page titled Carroll County Citizens in favor of a Water Park/Pool has grown to over 2,100 members since it was started in July.
At the August meeting, supervisors invited Recreation Director Sam McLendon for a discussion about a pool. McLendon noted that he took a recent trip to Randolph Park and was very impressed. He said the park was very professional and helped bring the community together. McLendon added that an aggressive fundraising campaign helped build the park, and Pulaski had a very good steering committee. The park opened 12 years ago and visitation is going up every year, he said.
“I think we have taken the first step in looking at a pool,” Martin responded. “I’d like to see us take more steps to see if it is a reality for us.”
Board Chairman Sam Dickson wanted to know McLendon’s plans in working toward a pool. McLendon said he had met with a group of concerned citizens and they plan to continue to meet on a regular basis.
“They have good ideas of what they want to do. The first step we need to do is a sight survey to make sure a sight is suitable,” McLendon said. “We need to do a good analysis to determine where you’d like a pool to be, then do an analysis of soils, topography, that sort of thing. Then, we can look at the map and overlay. That would be my recommendation.”
McLendon said Randolph Park cost about $12 million to build, $2 million of which was for the pool area. Supervisor Phil McCraw noted that the land for the park was donated. Supervisor Tom Littrell wanted to know what the revenue expenses were for a year at Randolph Park. McLendon said the park brings in $171,000, but he never got a number for expenditures.
Supervisor Joshua Hendrick asked McLendon if he could ask for expenditures. He said the county needed to know how much it would have to pay before it picked a site for a pool. He was sure the year-to-year maintenance cost would be more than $171,000.
“That was to run it and maintain it, but I can ask to confirm,” McLendon said. “Revenue was $171,000, but we will have to get the expense. He said it did cover the cost, but he didn’t give a figure.”
Supervisor David Hutchins said he’s not opposed to a new pool, but said the board has learned from the previous pool that the upfront cost may be miniscule as opposed to its operating cost. The county also needs to figure out what the usage would be for a pool, and to see if it could be extended. If it were only able to be used 45 days a year, he said that would be pretty tough to do.
“I would be interested in seeing the revenue, I’d like to see some numbers just so we know. If the citizens of the county want to go up three to five cents on the tax levy to pay for it, that’s okay,” Hutchins said. “Also, do we put it where the existing (pool) was?”
McCraw said he thought it would be good for the board to call the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors to see what it cost to operate Randolph Park. If the county wanted to extend usage time for a pool, he said Cana is a few degrees warmer than the rest of the county, and gets warmer earlier and stays warm longer than the rest of the county.
“It wouldn’t be centrally located, but we would be able to use it longer,” McCraw said. “I am totally for this if our citizens think we should do it. But we can’t just do it blindly because it can be an expensive proposition.”
McClendon added that thorough planning would be necessary. Hutchins asked how much a feasibility study would cost. County Administrator Gary Larrowe said he assumed such a study would cost between $25,000 and $30,000.
Later in the meeting during Citizens’ Time, Lisa Payne Delp told the board there is a bigger cost than just upkeep of a pool. Delp, who started the facebook drive for a new pool, said the health of the county’s citizens is also a big issue. She said the adult obesity rate in Carroll County is 31 percent.
“That’s nearly one third of its people. Along with that comes heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure and stroke. The rate is 25 percent in Virginia and 28 percent overall,” she said. “Carroll County ranks 79th of 131 counties. That is not good. You have to count that cost.”
She said the Carroll Wellness Center was supposed to be for the people of the county, but unfortunately she said it is only for the elite of the county. She said it costs $8 per person to swim there, which comes out to $32 for her family of four.
“And it is hit or miss to even get in there because they also have classes. Swimming is great exercise for everybody,” Delp said. “If you have an indoor pool, it can be open 365 days a year. We have beautiful mountains. We have all the things Pigeon Forge has. We just don’t have the recreation to bring them here…We need a pool, we need to get obesity down, physical activity up and improve the health of our citizens.”
Delp mentioned that Myrtle Beach has a movie night by the pool. That would be a great idea for Carroll to have to offer entertainment for its youth, she said.
“They need a place to go around here that is secure and not offering them drugs,” Delp said.
Delp was followed by a small child, Kendra Durnil, who offered her opinion to supervisors.
“I’d like to have a pool here so I can play and I can swim,” she said.
Kristina Durnil then spoke and told the board it should look at other places than just Randolph Park.
“Christiansburg has an aquatics center that is indoors. We go to Randolph Park and always see up to 10 people that we know,” she said. “Don’t just focus on Randolph, but take the good from each place and put it together.”
Bailey Delp was the last to speak. She said Carroll needs a pool because Randolph Park is too far away.
“And it costs a lot. At the pool, when it was my birthday, I went to Randolph Park and we had to spend a lot of money,” she said.
Dickson said he knew Randolph Park is a 70-mile round trip for most Carroll citizens. That’s a lot of gas, he said. Dickson said he was on the board of supervisors when it voted to close the county pool. He called it a tough decision to make.
“One of the reasons we closed it was participation. A very small number of folks were using it because the kids were turning blue because it was so cold,” Dickson said. “We had a bad water leak, we had to do a lot of repairs. When we tore it down there was a hole in it big enough that the machine tearing it apart could have fell through. It wasn’t a good pool. Carroll County needs to do better. Let’s forget that one and work on another one.”