- Published on Wednesday, 17 July 2013 23:31
- Written by Super User
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
The Town of Carolina Beach is exploring a project to build a $1.5 million dollar Aquatics Center adjacent to the Recreation Center behind Town Hall.
Highlights 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. Access to the facility will be through the existing rec center entryway and a covered walkway that leads to the pool. Leveraging the existing check-in desk would reduce the annual admin cost of running the facility. It would also include locker rooms, storage building with an open design, separate admin counter that can be utilized for concessions, and a family changing room.
The facility would be funded by user and event fees.
Public participation has been touted as an important part of developing the project. The Town Council appointed a committee to do the leg work on design, financials and other technical aspects of the project.
The committee has held informational sessions at locations such as the Katie B. Hines Senior Center.
They have a Facebook page.
But when you go to the Town's very own website, at www.carolinabeach.org there's nothing listed on the front page. In fact, under the section "Boards and Committees" there's no Pool committee listed.
Under "Meetings" there’s nothing listed for a Pool Committee. There is a section at the bottom of a very long page for the Parks and Recreation Department. And on their Facebook page, there are no meeting times listed but you can sign up for an email list to get updates.
You would at least expect a notice posted in the schedule of meetings and a link on the front page of the Town's website when considering the scope of the proposed project. The Council has often said they desire as much public involvement in the project as possible.
However, we have received emails from the Town stating there will be a meeting on Thursdays. And one committee member did previously write a letter to the editor that outlined the project and stated their meetings would be held on most Thursdays at 4PM.
We can assume those meetings are held at the Town's Recreation Center.
A couple of emails from the committee on Monday offer some insight.
Committee member Christina Dees sent an email on July 12th, to the Council. She wrote, "Dear fellow Council Members and Mr. Mayor: I am writing to you on behalf of the Aquatics Committee. As you know we have continued to move forward with the project and are still completing our due diligence. What we would like to do at this juncture is meet with each of you, 2 at a time if possible, at each of our next meetings (or another scheduled time if Thursdays do not work for you). We would like to get a feel for your thoughts on the pool project going forward, answer any remaining questions you might have, discuss the current status of the project, and perhaps address any new challenges. We are also working on a Q&A for the public as well as a Risk/Benefit Analysis. We would love to remain involved with council and keep each other on the same page."
She wrote, "Our meetings are held every Thursday, at 4pm, in the council chambers meeting room. Please let us know if you can attend by signing up for one of the dates below. If you cannot make these times, again please let us know a time/day that works best for you and we will accommodate. Our hope is to meet with you as soon as possible. Since Tom is already serving on the committee we will ask him not to come on the dates the other 2 council members will be there."
Dees wrote, "On behalf of the Aquatics Committee we thank you for your time and dedication to this project!"
The email listed Thursday, July 18th, @ 4:00pm, Thursday, July 25th, @4:00pm, and Thursday, August 1st, @ 4:00pm.
In another email sent to committee members on July 12th, Dees wrote, "We talked yesterday about meeting with council at possibly our next meeting. We will have to schedule them 2 by 2 to come in because if there are 3 or more in one place it is classified as a public hearing. We don't want that. So, I am going to email council and ask them to come in, 2 at a time, over the next few meetings so we can gather their feedback. OK?"
Suggestion: Town Council has in the past held work sessions between the Council and Planning and Zoning Commission as well as other committees on numerous issues. Bike paths, traffic patterns, the sign ordinance. Perhaps simply calling the entire Council and Committee together for an advertised work session would better educate the public on the project in-person.
And those hearings can be scheduled any day of the week including weekends when even more people can attend outside of the workweek schedule.
It's a big project and a lot of people are talking about it. With election season upon us its never been more important to educate the voters on this project so they can make up their own minds when considering which candidate's position is most favorable.
Not to say the committee is hiding from the public. On the contrary, they've been very open about it including mailing out a survey in water bills. Yet it should be easier for voters to access the information and committee-process than what is currently available.
The project is entering a new arena called election season. There will be heightened interest in the project. That includes praise and criticism. It's no longer about convincing the current Council about the positive merits of the project. It's about convincing the voters who will pay close attention as candidates campaign on many issues including an Aquatics Center.
If you would like to look at the project in more detail, visit their page on Facebook by searching for "Carolina Beach Community Swimming Pool".