Athens City Council reached a stalemate once again during Monday’s meeting when faced with the decision between an indoor or outdoor municipal pool.
Councilman Kent Butler, D-1st Ward, opened discussions for a second reading of an ordinance authorizing engineering services for the outdoor municipal swimming pool.
While it was described on the ballot to voters as a project for a new outdoor pool, talk is still revolving around whether or not a natatorium, or indoor pool, would suffice for Athenians. Councilwoman Michele Papai, D-4th Ward, discussed how an indoor pool would be what the community has asked for in terms of therapy session.
“My idea is looking long term and globally looking at the community, trying to keep people here as retirees servicing all year round,” Papai said. “I think that other communities are doing that; they’re figuring out the budget deficits.”
Mayor Steve Patterson noted the monetary setbacks in terms of full-time staffing for a year-round swim season, along with how the community is already serviced by the university indoor swimming pool.
“When you do that you’re looking at what is your revenue and the debt that’s coming off of what you’re having to do,” Patterson said. “I’ve seen the numbers … I’ve seen estimates up to $139,000 a year deficit (is what) we’re running every single year to keep it happening.”
Patterson also brought up the possibility of an alternative project focused on the creation of a smaller indoor therapeutic pool. The therapy pool could be centrally located in the community center for senior citizens’ lap swimming and water aerobic sessions.
“Indoor therapy pools can be built that aren’t anywhere near as expensive as say, a competition swimming pool, and they would serve all of our population,” Patterson said.
He estimates it could cost up to $600,000, which he said is plausible as opposed to another indoor addition to the current $7 million project. He continued with saying it would be “very odd to have two large indoor complexes” in the community.
“My confidence in the process has lapsed and waned over the past year,” Papai said.
Councilman Pat McGee, D-At Large, noted the lack of timeliness with the project. Conversation about the pool discussion began last summer, but construction isn’t estimated to be completed until 2017.
“Why are we rushing now if it’s not going to be ready for the coming year?” McGee asked.
Indoor or outdoor, many city council members agreed that the current pool has lived its life.
“There is this aging infrastructure over 40-years-old, and we want to replace it for the community,” Councilman Kent Butler, D-1st Ward, said.
Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, later introduced an ordinance amending Athens city code in regard to the definition of bed-and-breakfast. She said city code currently defines a bed-and-breakfast as a rental unit with less than four bedrooms, while a hotel is defined as five or more bedrooms. Fahl saw a unit with a four bedrooms as a “special non-entity” undefined in Athens city code and sought further clarification with this ordinance.
Fahl also noted this particular topic has been confused in the past in regards to Airbnb zoning and wants to table discussion on amending city code for next Monday. Fahl said she would like to bring concrete wording next week.