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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Ballot Referendum For Aquatics Center; Pool

Editorial: Ballot Referendum For Aquatics Center; Pool

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

Candidate for Town Council Mike Worley recently stated on his Facebook campaign page, "I think the idea of having a community pool is great, but not at this time. I believe there are more pertinent issues that need to be dealt with. I feel the only fair way to survey the residents of Carolina Beach is to allow us to vote on it in November or through a special referendum. Let's take a page from the city of Wilmington and the baseball stadium and let the voters decide. Looking forward to your input."
Mayor Bob Lewis and Councilman Steve Shuttleworth responded to Worley's comment on his campaign Facebook page saying a special referendum is not permitted by the Town's Charter as approved by the State General Assembly many years ago. To change the charter would require the Legislature to vote on amending it to permit a referendum putting the question of a pool to the voters.
During this discussion it was never mentioned that Town's are allowed by state statute to hold bond referendums asking the voters to approve funding for large capital projects.
In 2006 the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County held a $35.5 million dollar bond referendum for "parks and green space." The voters approved that ballot measure.
Of course, a Town has to pledge a portion of their taxing authority (property taxes) towards financing such projects long-term. That often means a tax increase to cover the annual debt. Other Town's have recently held bond referendums.
A few years ago voters in the Town of Cary approved an $80 million dollar referendum to build a fire station, new park and for transportation funds.
The Town of Morrisville held a 2012 referendum for street improvements and for renovations for their Aquatics and Fitness Center. That included a new enclosed pool and interior renovations. Also, it covered adding new amenities such as tennis courts, horseshoe pits, Frisbee golf and greenway extension for a community park. $14.3 million for the street improvements and $5.7 million for the pool and parks improvements.
The Town of Carolina Beach can in fact hold a bond referendum and ask the voters to approve pledging taxing authority (property taxes) to fund such a project.
Highlights of the proposed pool include a 204,000 gallon, 25 yard, 8-lane, NCAA compliant swimming pool complemented by a zero entry shallow end, ADA accessible ramp, and 9’ diving well. The facility would be open in the summer and covered by a “bubble” enclosure in the winter for year-round use.
The pool would be built adjacent to the Town's recreation center behind Town Hall near 7th Street.
The plan is for the facility to fund itself through user fees for annual and daily passes. 
Revenues would also be generated by various programs such as scuba diving classes and swim team events.
In April it was estimated by the committee exploring the proposal that cost of construction is estimated to range from approximately $900,000 to $1.15 million. Cost of operations is estimated to range from $289,000 to $314,000 per year. Income is estimated to range from $232,000 to $366,000 per year. As Councilman Steve Shuttleworth has pointed out before, the Town is in good shape financially and could easily take on the debt or write a check from the Town's reserve fund. The topic will surely be discussed at length this election season and voters will have a chance to cast ballots accordingly. This election could be the defacto referendum on a number of issues including the pool project. If it pays for itself, no problem. If not, the taxpayers will have to pay up. That's the quality of life question.