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Carolina Beach Council Approves Planning For Community Pool

The Carolina Beach Town Council heard a presentation at their Tuesday September 11, meeting for a proposed 8-lane, 25-yard community swimming pool next to the Recreation Center at Town Hall.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council heard a presentation regarding an, “Opportunity to construct a Carolina Beach Aquatics Center” adjacent to the existing Carolina Beach Recreation Center behind Town Hall.
Town Councils have discussed the idea of a swimming pool numerous times over the last seven years. Town Councilman Steve Shuttleworth commented Saturday night the Town’s Park’s and Recreation Master Plan adopted in 2008 indicates the community desire for an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.
He said that plan was based on public input at numerous meetings.
Based on information sent to the Council earlier this week by Councilman Shuttleworth, the initial capital expenses would likely total $737,500 for an eight-lane, 25-yard pool with shallow area and deep well. Of that total, pool construction would total $257,500 and other items including an auto sanitization system, locker room and admin facility and “year-around cover bubble”, lighting, landscaping and other related costs would total the $737,500.
Shuttleworth said the “dome” or “bubble” would permit year-round use even during cold weather months.
The project would be financed at a municipal interest rate of 3% over 20 years based on 12 monthly payments per year.
The project would be paid for by user fees. An annual family pass would likely cost $75. The information sent to Council indicates anticipated 1,250 season pass holders would bring in $93,750 a year. Visitor passes would bring in $15,000 a year. Other uses such as water aerobics instruction, swimming lessons, county school swim team lease, scuba diving classes and other uses would generate a total of $235,750 a year.
The average annual cost to the Town is indicated at $9,157 a year.
Several options are indicated at varying amounts for different pool dimensions but all options list an “8 lane pool” with each option varying in depth.
During the Council's Tuesday September 11, meeting Duke Hagestrom - local resident, business owner and member of the Town's Parks and Recreation Committee - said the project, "Has been under discussion for the greater part of 14 years or longer" and, "We've actually found an opportunity to take a real close look at this facility, run the financials and find the right location."
Parents brought children to the meeting, some wearing swimming goggles, to show their support for the proposal.
Hagestrom said the proposal calls for an 8-lane pool with a zero entry shallow area for rehabilitation, for kids to play and for handicap accessibility. People could access the pool without having to step down.
He said it takes more room but is a great amenity.
A separate area outside of the 8-lanes will serve as a "deep well" that can be used for diving instruction. A new building would provide administrative facilities and restrooms.
Hagestrom said, "In addition to the fact that we've had people excited about this project for years, this is truly part of our Parks and Rec Master Plan. This is something that was identified by all of the stakeholders in the Master Plan. We did the survey for all of the residents, swimming pool was one of the number one items on the list. They surveyed our Council members, our Parks and Rec Advisory Committee and I'm excited last night the Parks and Rec Committee had a majority vote to support and approve this project."
He said no diving board has been proposed due to some liability issues but could be added later.
Hagestrom said the National Parks Association and the State recommends, "A pool facility for every 20,000 residents. If you look at our footprint here in the Greater Wilmington area and New Hanover County, we are way under-pooled if you will. We don't have enough facilities."
He said other facilities in the County, "Are turning people away left and right... clearly there is a huge demand there."
He provided financial figures to the Council saying, "Nothing we are going to show you in this spreadsheet has been invented" and covers all aspects including construction, operation and income potential.
He said, "We spent time and were very pleased that some of the local aquatic facilities actually let us look at some of their numbers and understand what their revenues... and expenses look like."
The area proposed for the pool is located towards the back of the existing Recreation Center on part of the existing parking lot.
Hagestrom said using existing Town property avoids having to purchase land elsewhere that would make it cost-prohibitive.
He said the "bubble" would make the pool a year-round facility creating an indoor pool during cold weather months. The bubble would be heated.
He said the numbers generated from researching other local facilities are very conservative including keeping the fees low. He said, "The YWCA which is our next closest facility, they're annual pass is in excess of $250 per year per family and we're talking about $75."
Hagestrom said many people have contacted him about potential uses for the pool.
He said, "Worst case scenario, this is probably $10,000 an year... out of the Town's pocket and it could be even more favorable but we want to be conservative about this and don't want to be too aggressive in what we are presenting."
Hagestrom said, "We would like to ask the Town Council to consider moving forward with approval of the project" as soon as possible.
He said the YWCA is a six-lane pool compared to the proposed eight-lane pool and, "There's not a number from the income line that is any greater than 60% of what a six-lane facility... could generate."
He also said a major hotel on the Island has indicated they would like to convert their indoor pool to conference meeting space and could send visitors to pay and use the pool.
Long-term maintenance is included in the financial plan.
Councilman Bob Lewis said he supports the idea but questioned the difference between a "public" municipal pool and other private operations. He said, "Our Parks and Recreation Department, they generate very little income. My concern is if we don't have the right people... the right mentality, we are going to end up with the same type of situation. You need to market it" to offset cost to the Town. He said, "My concern is we don't have the right marketing personality to go out there and really sell this thing."
He said, "It's a public facility, not a private facility. I can tell you right now the YMCA and YWCA market like crazy" using various advertising methods.
Hagestrom agreed marketing would be important.
Lewis said some consideration should be given to residents verses visitors.
Hagestrom said their revenue projections account for that aspect but if the County offered grant funding, that may be an issue.
Council member Sarah Friede asked if Council approved it Tuesday night, what is the time-line for completing the project.
Hagestrom said for construction, "It can be as fast as a four to six month project" but was not sure about the time needed to obtain state permits.
Town Manager Tim Owens said, "The devil is in the details. That's where we need to get to. Site planning is the first thing you do" saying a fresh water well located on the property may have an impact on permits. He said, "I think you get into site planning first and the layout." He said financing and other issues such as personnel need to be considered.
Owens said the first step is site planning and possibly hiring a professional firm to conduct surveys of the entire property including infrastructure.
Councilman Shuttleworth recommended appointing a steering committee to help expedite the process. He said he's concerned the process may get bogged down.
Mayor Ray Rothrock said, "I'm certainly not against the pool... but I think we the Town are at the mercy of Sunny Point and the Army Corp of Engineers with what we can do in the buffer zone and what we might have to move."
The Town was notified earlier this year by the Army they are in violation of a 1972 land lease for property off Dow Road. The lease says it can only be used for a wastewater treatment facility and some associated uses. Over the years it's become home to the Town's entire public works and public utilities departments.
The Town has to move the bulk of those operations elsewhere as ordered by the Army. Some land at Town Hall may have to be utilized.
Mayor Rothrock said, "Any step we take here tonight should be contingent upon what direction we receive from Sunny Point. We were hoping to get some information back last week, but we didn't get it."
He said, "We need to evaluate where we can put the pool" based on where the Town may have to relocate some of their operations and that could take a while.
Owens said $30,000 would get the planning process started. He said an engineered site plan is the first step.
Councilman Shuttleworth made a motion to spend $30,000 on site planning, "To figure out a site plan and final engineering to move forward to develop a final plan and construction of an aquatic center at Carolina Beach based on further input and review from Council."
Councilman Lewis recommended appointing a steering committee made up of three residents and two councilmen. Hagestrom would be one of those residents. The committee would work with Town staff on the project.
The Council voted unanimously to spend the $30,000 as recommended and to create the steering committee at their next meeting.