Nearly 50 concerned residents were in attendance at last Monday night's Newcomerstown Village Council meeting (March 3). Their purpose being an attempt to offer solutions regarding the village's recent decision to close the swimming pool for this year.
The decision was announced following an executive council session that took place during the Feb. 17 regular council session. Village council reluctantly agreed that in light of the current fiscal emergency and the amount of repairs and maintenance issues that were needed before the pool could be re-opened for the summer season, the village could not proceed with approving the pool to re-open -- at least for this year.
Among those present at Monday night's council meeting were Rev. Ken Hacker, Pat Cadle and Greg Bowman.
Cadle, Newcomerstown Bicentennial Committee co-chairman, said, "You have a community that wants to help you. We are offering some ideas that could be possibly be utilized to help you generate the necessary money that is needed. There is an opportunity here for us to offer help, that's what a community does."
Cadle said he understood the village's current fiscal emergency and responsibility to correct the deficit, but said, "We just want to try to better the situation, if possible."
He said he was knowledgeable of a specific grant that the village could be eligible for, but would need to apply very soon in order to meet the grant deadline.
Rev. Hacker later pointed out the negative aspects of closing the swimming pool this year. Among those aspects were that closing the pool will not help the village's budget, a statement that was earlier stated by the Financial Planning and Supervisory Commission.
He also pointed out that the closed pool would also
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increase the village's liability if the pool becomes an abandoned facility.
Rev. Hacker presented a plan to council on Feb. 17 that intended to raise $10,000 to benefit the pool for this summer. The funds were going to be used to purchase passes for individuals in the community that would not be able to financially patronize the pool on a regular basis.
Rev. Hacker informed village council that the goal is for $30,000 in pledges to be obtained in time for the pool to be re-opened for the summer of 2014. He then asked if village council would rescind their earlier decision to close the pool for this year. He also suggested council appoint a pool committee consisting of one council member and four to six residents that would be willing to serve on the committee to resolve the issues of concern, and keep village council apprised of the progress at each council meeting.
He added that the committee should then plan to meet after the pool closes for the season to set a plan for winterizing. He said he would be agreeable to serve on the committee.
"Operating a village is no small task. It takes dedicated people working together to accomplish good things," he said.
Hacker said his plan was intended to not only resolve the problem, but to also bring the community together to work on a tangible project, provide recreation for the community, and leave a legacy for future generation. The last statement also being part of the mission of the Newcomerstown Bicentennial Committee. He emphasized cooperation, teamwork and progress.
Newcomerstown citizens also spoke briefly about their feelings concerning the decision for the pool to be closed and to offer possible ideas.
One of the citizens, Pat Loader, said the decision had a personal impact on her and her family.
Loader said her grandson had received great benefits from being able to use the village swimming pool, referring to the fact that he had challenged needs and the pool had been a much beneficial therapy for him.
"The youth of this village is our future. The closing of the pool is personally heart-breaking, and concerning to me," Loader said.
Another resident, Shawn Dakin, questioned if the pool could possibly be given to another entity to manage financially.
Council members Earl McCormick, Jim Trzop and Jim Carr voiced concerns with the issue of first correcting the outstanding deficit before the village could act on the issue concerning the swimming pool.
"I understand and support the community's feelings, and good intentions, but we first have to get the budget balanced, then we can go from there" McCormick said.
Trzop said, "We have to look at the village's cash flow. There is a deficit of $17,000 that has to be corrected according to the Financial Planning Commission. We have no choice, but to take care of that first."
Carr added, "I appreciate and support all the efforts being made this evening."
Council member Heather Stein-Wells later said, "While no decision is being made tonight to rescind our decision to close the pool, we (council) have agreed to re-discuss it at least."
Council then agreed to meet again next week and have a finance committee meeting (concerning the swimming pool only).
The meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m.
The pool committee will also have a meeting that same night at 6 p.m.
The meetings will be open to the public.