Cahoon pool supporters planning last stand; City Council to vote tonight on tax increases to fund new pool and rec center
Supporters of reopening the Cahoon Park Pool are planning a last st[auth] and at tonight’s City Council meeting, when the Roswell City Council is scheduled to hold public hearings and then vote on three proposed tax increases to fund an $18 million recreation center and aquatic facility at Cielo Grande Recreation Area.
Supporters of reopening Cahoon pool say the landmark swimming hole is salvageable, and that the city should forgo a new outdoor pool and reopen the Cahoon pool. Support for reopening the Works Progress Administration pool built in 1938 among the City Council has not grown since the City Council voted 8-1 in April to decommission the pool after an hour-plus impassioned debate that included the removal of a man after an outburst.
The closing of the pool has become a political lightening rod, often overshadowing the closure of the Yucca Recreation Center on Dec. 24, 2015, due to flooding and other problems with that historic structure, built in 1911 and renovated in 1940 and 1972.
Many supporters of renovating Cahoon Park Pool walked out of a City Council work session in June at which an architectural firm recommended the Cielo Grande Recreation Area as the site of a new $9 million recreation center to replace the Yucca Recreation Center.
City officials have said the Cahoon pool leaks like a sieve, its valves are rusted and irreplaceable, it’s outdated in its rectangular shape and lack of a sloped entry, and possibly sits on a sinkhole that could engulf swimmers in the event of a catastrophic structural failure. Pool supporters have said the city’s decision was rash, based on opinions and scare tactics, lacked sufficient engineering study and was made without adequate public notice or input.
Richard Garcia, one of the 20 to 25 people who walked out of the June 26 work session and a candidate for state representative at the time, said Wednesday that pool supporters are not giving up.
“I think the Cahoon Park Pool is still alive and well,” he said. “I think there was nothing to not reopen that pool. Findings of fact with experts checking it out, that pool could have been open today. That’s how I think, and I believe that that is the route. We have been hoodwinked by some of our people on the council, and I believe that they misled the public on this issue.”
Donald Daugherty, another vocal proponent of saving Cahoon pool, said the city should proceed with building an indoor pool at Cielo Grande Recreation Area, while reopening Cahoon pool. He said the six- or eight-lane indoor pool proposed at Cielo Grande Recreation Area is shortsighted.
“I think they’re kind of halfway doing it,” he said. “I think they should spend all of their money on an indoor pool and maybe recommission Cahoon for an outdoor pool and maybe have a splash pad at the new pool until they can afford to build an outdoor pool. I think they’re not giving the new indoor pool the money or the design that it needs.”
The City Council is also slated tonight to “discuss and consider the final direction on the concept for the water facility at the new recreation center.”
“I know the city doesn’t have a lot of money, but we have to look 50, 60 years down the road,” Daugherty said. “We can’t be shortsighted. If we’re going to build a new pool, we have to do it right, has always been my opinion. So I think they should spend most of their budget on a new indoor pool, because you can always add an outdoor pool, but it’s very hard to enlarge an indoor pool once you’ve built it.”
Mayor Dennis Kintigh said he doesn’t see much likelihood the City Council will reverse its decision to decommission the Cahoon pool.
“The council will make that decision, the councilors will decide,” he said. “I don’t see it likely to happen (given) all of the professional information that we’ve gotten from our professional staff members and the consultants that we’ve hired that do swimming pools.”
Kintigh and Daugherty agreed there’s been little movement among city councilors since their 8-1 vote to permanently close Cahoon pool.
“I think what we’re really looking at is moving forward,” Kintigh said. “A lot of people want to go backwards. I think what we’re looking at is an awesome facility. There are obviously some places that people would like to see bigger, they’d like to see more. I’m not sure we can afford it. So I think putting the indoor together with the outdoor next to the recreation center at Cielo Grande where our soccer fields are, where there’s plenty of parking, is the way to go.”
Daugherty said the City Council has budged little in the face of opposition to closing Cahoon pool.
“I thought Cahoon pool was kind of a dead issue, that the City Council has made up their decision and there’s no way they’re ever going to reverse their decision,” Daugherty said. “I think they kind of dug in their heels.”
Kintigh said the issue at hand is the size of the proposed indoor pool at Cielo Grande Recreation Area. Adding two swimming lanes to the indoor lap pool, from six lanes to eight, is estimated to add $1.4 million to price tag, from $7.7 million to $9.1 million, and cost $40,000 more a year to operate. The overall aquatic design includes the indoor lap pool with a large rock wall angling out over the water, an outdoor large open swim area with a large tube slide, and outdoor toddler section with shaded structures.
“The most attention we’ve gotten is dealing with, can we accommodate some competitions?” Kintigh said. “One of the issues is the eight-lane versus the six-lane and the area for seating for spectators. We will narrow that down (tonight). We want to get some final numbers on that. So it’s the design concept, we’re not actually getting into the design work. Councilors don’t do that. We’re going to lay out the framework, we’re going to put what its going to accomplish.”
The aquatic facility and new recreation center combined are projected to cost $18 million.
“We’ve got three gross receipts tax increases we’re going to have to battle our way through,” Kintigh said.
One of the proposed ordinances would adopt a one-eighth of 1 percent municipal gross receipts tax, or 0.125 percent, dedicated to general municipal purposes. The second proposed ordinance would adopt a one-sixteenth of 1 percent municipal infrastructure gross receipts tax, or 0.0625 percent, also dedicated to general municipal purposes. The third proposed ordinance would adopt a one-sixteenth of 1 percent municipal environmental services gross receipts tax, dedicated to acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance of solid waste facilities, water facilities, sewer systems and related facilities.
The three tax increases would each retire after 20 years. The city’s current GRT rate of 7.5 percent would increase to 7.75 percent, effective July 1, meaning sales taxes in Roswell would increase 25 cents for every $100 of goods and services purchased that are subject to gross receipt taxes.
In other business tonight, the City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote a proposed Body Arts Safe Practices ordinance that would give the city powers to regulate body art practices. The ordinance would require body art establishments to obtain body art establishment business licenses from the city and would prohibit home-based body art establishments, with a mandatory fine of $500 per occurrence.
The City Council is also scheduled to hear a zoning appeal for properties in the 2000 block of North Garden Avenue, to consider an ordinance that would increase municipal court fines, and to discuss and consider if the city should take over the maintenance of Memory Lawn Memorial Park cemetery.
Senior Writer Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.