In an about face from last month’s meeting, where White Sulphur Springs city council members enthused that a new municipal swimming pool may be open by summer’s end, those same members are now saying, “well, maybe not.”
During Monday evening’s city council meeting, council member and city parks and recreation commissioner Audrey Van Buren said that current bids to place a “pool within a pool,” in which a new pool would be built inside the current, leaky one, may cost upwards of a million dollars. A new pool, she said, could cost between $2 million and $3 million.
This is a sharp increase from two years ago, she said, when she first received bids on the project. Just two years ago, the city was looking at spending about $700,000 for a repair job, the “pool within a pool,” and about a million dollars for an entirely new pool. Like everything else, Van Buren said, the price has increased.
Despite the sharp increase in cost, Van Buren insisted that she is not giving up on the project. The Citizens for a Pool committee is continuing to seek grant funding and private donations toward a new, or renovated, public pool.
She said that the committee has a petition with 783 names expressing support of a public pool to include with any grant applications.
Councilman Mark Gillespie echoed both Van Buren’s passion and industriousness in his hopes to get a pool in place for local kids and families. Gillespie said that he and the pool committee have been working with the Charleston office of the West Virginia Economic Development office to secure funding, along with other government entities.
So far, he said, the city has secured $12,000 in grants and private donations.
“We’re making strides,” he said, noting that the current budget crisis in the West Virginia Legislature is making it especially difficult to secure any grant funding from the state. Plus, he said, any grant funding secured usually requires that the city match the funds dollar for dollar, meaning that the pool committee must also campaign for private funding as aggressively as they are for public funds.
Gillespie said he is currently working with a local resident who is a pool architect, and is hoping to get that individual to donate his time to create plans for the new or rehabbed swimming pool. The pool must be designed by a certified pool architect, Gillespie said; further, he said, a civil engineer must be hired, a soil study must be undertaken, and the entire project must be signed off on by the West Virginia Health Department.
“Every time you take a step forward, you take two steps back,” Gillespie lamented.
When an audience member suggested asking the Greenbrier County Commission for Arts and Recreation funds to be made available for pool construction, Van Buren stated firmly, “That’s not going to happen.”
Gillespie asked the audience members to consider downgrading their desires for a full-sized public pool. Would the community support a splash pool similar to the one in downtown Lewisburg’s Green Space? he wondered.
“We need something for the little kids,” he said.
The only public pool in operation on the East end of Greenbrier County is the one in Harts Run at the Greenbrier State Forest.
“You can’t get into Harts Run,” Van Buren lamented. “It’s packed.”
Still, Van Buren remained resolute. “We’re not going to give up,” she said.