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Brookhaven aldermen budget session gets heated

Tempers flared at the final budget work session for the Brookhaven Board of Alderman earlier in the week.

Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore has consistently been the main advocate for bringing a public pool to Brookhaven, and brought up the issue again at this meeting. Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice addressed the board and Moore in particular about using taxpayers’ money on a study for a public pool. “For us to have a community center or a pool, that’s all great. I don’t have a problem with it, but how do we fund it, where do we put it and what’s the cost of it?” Grice said. “I agree wholeheartedly that we need to come up with summer programs for kids. I’m a product of it. I grew up without a dad.”

Grice did his own research this week to determine what the costs could be if the city were to build a pool. He looked online and also called a local pool company to determine costs as well.

Grice pointed out the price for pools in various sizes as well as construction costs of a community center. He also looked at the maintenance costs required to prevent recreational water illnesses that can come from swimming in public pools. Some of the costs ranged into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and in some cases millions of dollars, with all of the amenities and upkeep, he said.

Moore repeatedly interrupted Grice, stating that his research was unofficial and that he can do an unofficial study himself. He told Grice that he should have called surrounding area city pools and that he could look up the same thing. He implied Grice was lying.

“So you did all of this research by yourself right? I don’t believe that,” Moore said.

“You calling me a liar?” said Grice.

“I don’t believe you. You’re calling yourself a liar, because I don’t believe you,” said Moore.

“I made this and I don’t appreciate you calling me a liar. It’s not funny,” said Grice. “You have a fiduciary responsibility to these taxpayers to balance this budget and do the right thing. Where are we going to come up with $2 million or however much this will cost?”

“I never said it would cost that. That’s your figures,” Moore said.

“Where are your figures?” Grice said.

“When y’all hire an engineer to do a study. We can get the same person to do a study for the pool. Let’s do a study and find out,” Moore said.

Aldermen dived into this pool discussion back in 2015.

Roy Smith said he and others had petitioned the board on several occasions to build a recreation facility with a swimming pool. He said the issue had been a source of disagreement for more than 20 years, since Brookhaven’s public pools closed. The expensive repairs at least one pool needed led to the pools, which were opened around the ‘60s, being closed.

In 2015, there was $25,000 set aside for a study and $50,000 in 2016.

“They had an opportunity to use the money and go forward with the study the past two years,” said Cox. “The idea was never pushed and a plan was never put in place.”

The peacemaker of the night was Ward 1 Alderman Cameron Dorsey. He offered aldermen a compromise.

“My suggestion is that we do a study and just see what it will cost,” said Dorsey. “If this doesn’t put us over the budget, if we don’t do one, we’ll be stuck where we are now. So if we have the money, we need to do it.”

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Snider was the only one who objected the pool study idea.

“I’m against it based on the projected incomes we have for the upcoming year,” said Snider.

The city will spend $12,000 to do a study this year, however, it won’t come up for a vote until the next meeting, Sept. 5.

“This is a preliminary study to discuss intent desires and purpose of the facility,” said Cox.

Also at the public hearing, several individuals said their particular wards were not being treated as fairly.

In response, Mayor Joe Cox opened the meeting by addressing what the city is doing to help each individual ward.

“Our duty as elected officials is to all the taxpayers of Brookhaven to provide essential city services in the most cost effective manner possible and prepare for the future with funds available,” Cox said.  “We have approved water and sewer projects in excess of $10 million. We have an extensive paving plan to better serve all the citizens of Brookhaven and we have obtained over $4.1 million in grants which include CDBG funds for low income areas.”

The paving plan that the city recently completed involved 77 streets for a total cost of over $3 million.

“The city is being pro-active in serving and protecting the citizens of Brookhaven,” said Cox. “We’re at a critical time of the year where it’s our jobs as leaders to determine what are priorities and establish what needs to be done and make hard decisions of what will not be done.”

Shannon Moore

Fletcher Grice

Joe Cox