A pool would be nice, but it’s unnecessary

Published 9:47 pm Saturday, September 5, 2015

Does the city of Brookhaven need a public swimming pool? Of course not. Would it be nice if there was a public recreation facility complete with a pool? Of course.

But needs and wants are two different things.

Ward 2 Alderman Terry Bates has been pushing for a pool for years, and Ward 1 Alderman Randy Belcher has made efforts most recently. Recreation Department Director Terry Reid was asked to put together some numbers on the cost of public swimming pools. Reid said there is no federal or state money to build or repair a pool on any level, and he talked to the city managers of Indianola and Cleveland, sister cities to Brookhaven similar in size and demographics.

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“A minimum pool for a town our size is going to be $500,000 just for the pool,” Reid said. “[…] You have to have to hire an engineer and an architect […] they tell you how big it’s supposed to be. […] you need showers, pool house, dressing rooms and people in there monitoring these rooms because you’re dealing with children and adults in a public setting.”

Reid said other towns use a food tax and $1 a person entry fee to fund the operation of a pool, and the city managers said they are not or barely able to cover the cost. Reid said the $500,000 estimate was for an outdoor pool, not an entire recreation facility and estimated the yearly cost to operate at around $100,000.

“A lot of people would love to have a pool, this isn’t a black thing, this is black-white thing, it’s all kids,” Belcher said. “My kids can swim — but I can afford to go to a hotel to do that, everybody can’t do that. Like I said every month we take this money in [and] we’re not just taking it from Randy Belcher and people who have a few dollars […] we’re taking it from everybody. We need to spread it out to everybody so when we’re looking at this figure and say ‘well it’s too much,’ just think about all taxpayers — all taxpayers.”

It’s unfortunate that some children don’t know how to swim, but that doesn’t mean it’s the government’s job to provide a pool so they can learn. Some children learn to swim in pools, some learn to swim in ponds and creeks, and some never learn. That’s the same no matter where you live.

The city is planning to spend $25,000 on a feasibility study for a pool, and that’s $25,000 too much to spend on this idea. If Brookhaven were flush with cash, and all other essential government services were adequately funded, and the city had already invested in other worth-while facilities and programs to provide a better quality of life for residents, then maybe a pool should be considered.

But that’s not the reality of city finances today. Water and sewer rates are increasing.  The city is spending big bucks to resurface roads, but not enough to overhaul all that need work. A new fire station is also needed.  As in all cities, funds are limited.

Spending any amount of taxpayer dollars on something as unnecessary as a swimming pool wouldn’t be wise.