City Council Debates Pool Ordinance

Posted on:

< < Back to

The Athens City Council debated a new ordinance about the city pool at length on Tuesday, questioning the language and intention of the ordinance.

The ordinance, which was only in its first reading of three, would authorize Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht to borrow up to $500,000 for engineering services in the process of construction on an outdoor pool, according to the ordinance.

“This is solely for an outdoor pool, which may be controversial for some,” said Councilman Kent Butler, who presented the ordinance.

The $500,000 comes along with a levy passed in November 2014 which, as verified by Council President Chris Knisely during Tuesday’s meeting, approved construction of a pool, but did not specify whether the pool should be indoor or outdoor.

The pool was estimated to cost $7.3 million, but consultants hired by the city said an indoor and outdoor pool wouldn’t be possible under that budget.
Controversy over the levy spread as council members said community members felt all options weren’t being explored when it comes to the pool.

“The public has been led to believe that all options were on the table and now we’re essentially saying ‘no, this is only for an outdoor pool,'” said Councilwoman Jennifer Cochran.

The reason for the $500,000 was questioned by council members as well as taking the word of one consultant group.

“We only have one consultant that we paid ($20,000) to $25,000 to, and we have one opinion,” said Coucilwoman Michelle Papai. “I think there are still a lot of questions in the community regarding this issue.”

Hecht said she had “no idea” where the $500,000 number came from, and said she “was just given the number.”

But Hecht also addressed concerns about where any money that might be leftover from the levy would go, saying it would remain in the budget to be used as the

council sees fit.

“But I really hope you let (the pool ordinance) roll and get the process started because this is not a short process,” Hecht said.

Mayor Steve Patterson said the ordinance has “morphed” from its initial intention into other ideas, such as an indoor/outdoor pool. He said he agreed that the consultants “slapped together” a proposal for an indoor/outdoor facility that would create “two subpar facilities.”

Still, he said he wanted to see the process of an outdoor pool move on, not only so the city could move on to other issues, but also so the facility could be improved as quickly as possible.

“I’m pretty firm, personally, about moving this forward, getting things going,” Patterson said. “We’ve got an aging, failing pool…and I’m praying we can keep it going and be open in the summer, I really am.”