The Union Recorder

February 2, 2013

County revisits pool, garden issues

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Thursday’s first-try work session provided the Baldwin County Commissioners quality time to discuss recreational issues such as the proposed community garden at the Collins P. Lee center and pool options.

CSH pool could be a summer substitute

A conventional design-bid-build process at the old recreational pool site is too expensive and couldn’t be done by summer. 

“To rush and construct or renovate to have the facilities would take away time to seek additional funding and keep the cost down,” county manager Ralph McMullen said. “SPLOST money isn’t available for that use right now.”

New pool layout costs more than $2 million, while minor pool and bathhouse renovations run in the $800,000 range.

Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) executive director Mike Couch brought an interesting proposal for immediate need.

The State Properties Commission plans to decommission an indoor 25-meter, 3.5-foot lap pool at Central State. A broken pump is the only thing separating the Americans with Disabilities Act-certified pool from full operation.

Since the CSHLRA is a state agency, Couch will request to keep the surplus property next week.

“We don’t need to let it go from Milledgeville and Baldwin County,” Couch said.

Sammy Hall, District 3, said access to the Central State pool gives the county a place to go. Bringing a pool to the south side of town would be another plus, according to District 4 rep Henry Craig.

“This would appear to be a wonderful transition opportunity until we have SPLOST money in the bank,” Craig said.

Markey and Associates Inc., president David Markey drafted the plans and figures for the old recreation pool’s facelift. Markey said the renovation would look like a new pool, but the entire project wouldn’t be finished by summer.

Tommy French, District 2, suggested looking at the pool project as a potentially self-sustaining operation. Having a nice lap pool, splash pad and play-pool could bring surrounding counties.

“I don’t know another market that will have a better return on investment,” French said.

Mackey designed Statesboro’s recreational water park that brings in 180,000 bathers per year. Baldwin County could grab a small piece of that blueprint.

Hall highlighted that the old pool wasn’t a moneymaking operation. Johnny Westmoreland, District 5, said the county has to get to a break-even point first.

“You need to make your mind up whether you want to be in the recreation pool business or not. Something that is enjoyable for the whole family is the way to do it,” Mackey said. “You need to charge more than a buck a head and make it worth more than that. That’s how you do better than break even. It depends on what you are willing to charge.”

Garden requires policy change

French alerted the board last September about a Knight Foundation grant award given to Live Healthy Baldwin. A community group led by Dr. Jim Lidstone, Georgia College’s Center for Health and Social Issues director, requested the board allow use of the Collins P. Lee Center in Harrisburg for a community garden.

County attorney David McRee said Thursday the fees and exclusivity of the property use could set a precedent allowing a myriad of citizen requests.

The community garden calls for a recreational policy and procedures change.

“It would require some fairly significant revisions. The changes could have far ranging effects beyond this project,” McRee said. “We can’t give things away. Other counties have done this, but not in recreational facilities.”

Lidstone spoke on behalf of the initiative. The proposed community garden would feature a walking track and 20 plots available to anyone in the county.

He struggles understanding the county’s issue with perceived extra benefits.

“People get benefits by playing in a softball league as well. I’m just not seeing the problem,” Lidstone said.

French said the non-profit and recreational aspects of the project were too important to let go.

“It makes your county more beautiful. I see no negatives in it. We need to do our best to make it happen,” French said.

McRee agreed to draft up contract proposals for the garden.

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