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Maybe study will drown the pool issue

Brookhaven officials are again trying to decide if they should plunge into the pool business. Though a recent pool committee meeting was closed to the public, we have a good idea of what was discussed — the same thing that’s been discussed for the past several years. How can the city afford to build, operate and maintain a public swimming pool?

At a meeting last year, 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. The city already has a good idea of what a pool will cost. 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.

We are guessing the city’s pool committee is wrestling with those figures, while at the same time looking at what it costs to maintain things like roads and provide fire and police services. From what we know of the city’s budget picture, it does not appear feasible to construct a pool right now.

Brookhaven could, of course, raise taxes in order to construct a pool facility. But we doubt residents have the appetite for that.

Maybe the $12,000 independent feasibility study will finally bury this idea — at least until Brookhaven is in better financial shape.