Home Politics City Council continued pool discussion, discussed marketing pot as tourist attraction when legalized

City Council continued pool discussion, discussed marketing pot as tourist attraction when legalized

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Athens City Council discussed site plans for the proposed new community pool at their meeting Monday evening.

The Finance and Personnel Committee, chaired by Jeffrey Risner, D-4th Ward, invited MSA Architects consultants to explain the two options for pool sites. Keith Hall, one of the architects, led the discussion.

“We’ve been studying several ideas as to where to locate the pool on the site,” Hall said, “so we’re not only looking at where the existing pool is, but we’ve been looking at other areas surrounding the rec center so that we can put this pool, this project, in the best location. It’s almost a once in a lifetime project, and you want to get it right. We’re constantly challenging ourselves as to where is the best place to put this on the site.”

Hall continued by noting that regardless of which of the two sites the city chooses, MSA will be building on a floodplain, which raises some financial difficulties.

Site 1 is behind the current Athens Community Center, and it is under the flood level. Hall said the site will need to be raised between four and five feet, which would add approximately half a million dollars to the project.

Site 2 is the existing community pool site. According to Hall, that site would require less fill and would therefore be less expensive and less of a risk.

“The city of Athens had some goals (for the pool), and one of them was to incorporate the essence of Athens,” Hall said.

Hall said other goals included the following: shade and green space, energy efficiency and sustainability, clean facilities, proper supervision, age group segregation, a main activity pool, a lap pool, a spray ground, waterslides and pool activities.

These goals come with a price, though.

Hall said that Site 1 would cost approximately $6.7 million, while Site 2 would cost approximately $6.2 million. He budgeted both pools and the amenities Athens wanted in these numbers.

The primary discrepancy in the two prices is due to bringing in fill, according to Hall.

Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, proposed the idea of adding a dome over the pool to extend its use into the winter months. Lisa Mosier, a community member who identified herself as an architect explained the benefits of adding a dome.

“This is something that could be removed entirely during the summer, so I’m not sure if it would be objectionable to anyone who wants to have the summer experience because it would not impinge on that,” Mosier said. “However, given that there are some community stakeholders that feel that they would have preferred an indoor pool, this would be a possibility to extend the use of the pool into the winter months. These structures tend to be very cheap and, from what I’m seeing, are maybe one tenth of the cost of building an indoor pool. This would be a smaller expense on top of the outdoor pool.”

Other community members spoke about their objections and concerns with the pool construction. A local Athens Middle School student read comments from her classmates who were concerned about losing the pool.

Martha Bishop, a community member, said she was concerned about having enough lap lanes open for those who wanted to swim for exercise. Mayor Steve Patterson responded to her concerns by saying that the lap lanes could easily be added or retracted.

After the pool site plan discussion ended, the Finance and Personnel Committee discussed the 2015 Tourism Economic Impact Report.

Paige Alost gave the report, announcing that visitors generated $154.3 million in business activity in Athens during 2015, a 10 percent growth since 2013.

Alost said the largest revenue generator was retail, followed by food and beverage. She is looking for ways to generate revenue in the recreation and entertainment industry because that is what Athens is known for.

“Are you making any plans for what’s going to happen when marijuana is legalized?” McGee asked Alost, who laughed in response.

“We have some very funny slogans that we’ve come up with, just in preparation for it, that kind of tie into some other things,” Alost responded. “It’s ‘Roll with It,’ and I think if marijuana does become legal in Ohio, what we do will be determined by how the law is set up as far as where the dispensaries are set up and who can engage in it.”

Alost said that she will capitalize on this if she can.

Aside from the pool and the economic impact of tourism, City Council also discussed the depot lift station, the water treatment plant, the West Union streetscape and reducing traffic on East State Street.

City Council meets every Monday at 7 p.m. on the third floor of the City Building. Community members are encouraged to attend.

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