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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Letters to the Editor CB Swim Facility: Vote Prep

CB Swim Facility: Vote Prep

Dear Editor,
On April 8th, Carolina Beach Town Council will vote on the community swim facility, a big day for many who have invested significant time and effort in the project.  
Over $50,000 of Town money has been invested in the evaluation and preparation of this proposal.  The committee that has been leading this project is a great group of people.  For those of us that have worked closely with them, we are proud to have them in CB and involved in town business.
The detailed proposals and final budgets will soon be submitted. Unfortunately, these recommendations are not good for Carolina Beach. Perhaps a less expensive and more community friendly design sometime in the future. However, this is not the right project and not the right time. Let’s move on to those community investments we can all believe in.  Council should vote NO on April 8th.
Consider the following realities when evaluating the committee’s recommendations.
Expense – The project is too expensive to build and join. This is a massive $1,400,000 investment that is planned as new debt for the town of Carolina Beach. A family annual membership fee for residents will be $400, $560 for nonresidents. 
This is 5 times the cost of a current CB Rec Center membership. Individuals will pay $240 for a resident and $330 for nonresident. These fees are unaffordable for many in our community. The debt is planned to be carried for 20 years, requiring a stable and reliable membership base as the facility ages and competitor pools enter nearby communities, a serious risk to membership and income.
Tax Burden - Ongoing facility operations are expected to lose money and require a tax payer subsidy.  This deficit could be up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per fiscal year.
Like the debt for this project, the risk and payment for any amounts not covered by entry fees would be the sole responsibility of Carolina Beach.  Neighboring communities will likely take advantage of our facilities but have no plans to participate in the risks.  If all currently available funds have been allocated for other expenses in this/future fiscal year budgets, approval of this proposal will require a commensurate increase in taxes. Members of Council that vote YES, understand and agree with this tax increase.
Function - First and foremost, this is a competitive swim and exercise facility, similar to the YWCA and other privately financed exercise locations.  This year round design includes a removable dome. 
Unfortunately, the swim emphasis has sacrificed seating and some playful design options.  Although the vast majority of time spent at a pool is on the deck, ours would be small. The design has been forced to fit in our already cramped parking area at the Town Center. No seating is planned when the dome is in place, likely half the year.  During the hot days of summer, when your kids are excited to swim and you want to read a good book, there will only be a few seats on one end of the pool.
No designated play areas, no dancing fountains and no swirly slides for the kids. This is not the resort type pool that many expect. It is for “swimming”. 
We have a portfolio of programing planned to help attract members and pay some of the bills. With no priority planned for CB residents, sharing the limited space with nonresidents and daily pass vacationers will part of the CB experience.
Events - As part of the competitive swim design, we are planning to host swim tournaments and meets. Unfortunately, the same limited deck space issue will impact any spectators or guardians that plan to attend these events. 
No stadium seating will be available and, for safety reasons, we may even need to limit the number of people that will be allowed to stand in the pool area during the event. A serious concern for parents of young children
Elite Club – Although 100% of Carolina Beach tax payers will be asked to participate in this expense, only a fraction of the community will use it.  When you take into account the expense to join, number of community swimmers, other swim options and time to participate, CB membership could be less than 200 of our almost 6000 residents. At 200 members, CB would be investing $7,000 per CB member over the loan term and annually as much as an additional $1,000 per CB swimmer in tax payer subsidy. Any decrease in the membership fees would add incrementally to the community costs.
It is almost guaranteed that some future Town Council will see the injustice of the membership fees and make access more affordable by asking everyone else to pay. This is an expensive luxury for a small group of people.
Carolina Beach is rich with opportunity and our community is eager to invest in our future.  We have many unfunded projects that could easily draw community support.  Let’s move on to our real community priorities.
Darren Alkins,
Carolina Beach, NC