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Pushing for a public pool would be unwise

Here we are again, with city officials trying to decide if they should plunge into this pool idea.

Like it has for several years, the idea of constructing a city pool has again surfaced in Brookhaven. This time, new alderman Shannon Moore is pushing for the pool.

At a meeting this week, aldermen voted to spend $12,000 to conduct a pool study. This is not the first year the board has set aside money for a study, but to our knowledge no official study has been completed.

But the city already has a good idea of what a pool will cost. Two years ago, then-Recreation Department Director Terry Reid was asked to put together some numbers on the cost of a public swimming pool. Reid said there is no federal or state money to build a pool, and he talked to the city managers of Indianola and Cleveland, sister cities to Brookhaven similar in size and demographics.

“A minimum pool for a town our size is going to be $500,000 just for the pool,” Reid said. “You 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 cities use a tax and $1-per-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.

Reid did the work two years ago, so there’s no reason to spend another dime on a study for a pool.

Alderman Fletcher Grice did his own study and found the cost of a pool to be anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to over a million.  Moore did not like Grice’s independent study, and all but called him a liar at a meeting earlier this week.

Would a pool benefit the city’s residents? Of course. Would a pool improve the quality of life for some city residents? Yes. But that doesn’t mean the city has the money to build and operate a pool. 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.  As in all cities, funds are limited in Brookhaven. Spending any taxpayer dollars on something as unnecessary as a swimming pool wouldn’t be wise. The city should take the $12,000 earmarked for a pool study and use it in a way that truly benefits residents.