Float talks with public on pool option

Published 12:05 am Sunday, November 16, 2014

Call me skeptical, but the recent discussions about building a pool in Adams County have me a bit concerned.

Does the community need a swimming pool more accessible to the public than the one in the basement of the senior center on State Street? Perhaps, but such a pool likely doesn’t need to be a publicly owned, politically managed one.

Clearly, the city and county need to join forces and construct a state-of-the-art recreation complex.

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Doing it piecemeal and without a long-term plan, however, doesn’t seem wise.

To date, despite heavy public support for the creation of a usable recreation facility, nothing tangible has been done.

In the original recreation complex plan, a swimming pool was in the last phase, at least in part because swimming pools are so expensive to build and maintain.

But now, the plan being discussed — with seemingly enough votes to commit county tax dollars to it — makes the pool the lone recreation option on the table.

The pool option currently considered is derived at least in part from Magnolia Bluffs Casino. The casino’s lease with the City of Natchez requires it to pay $225,000 annually into a community development fund. The fund appears to be diving into the recreation issue.

The fund’s leaders offered to contribute a portion of those annual funds to build a swimming pool if Adams County would pay a portion of the costs.

It’s politically timed. County supervisors will be up for election next year. The addition of a public swimming pool, particularly one in which they can claim was paid for in part by someone else’s money, might garner some votes.

The latest pool talk popped up about the same time whispers began to swirl about developers seeking to make an “entertainment” district along Broadway Street.

That’s somewhat interesting since the casino would likely benefit from the development of such an entertainment district, just up the bluff from the casino.

Allegedly, the hope is that once the public is appeased with a new swimming pool, the community development fund or perhaps the $1 million in funds that the casino is also obligated to pay toward, “the development of a YMCA, a community recreation center or a civil rights museum,” as the lease reads, could be funneled elsewhere.

Allegedly, the aim is to help fund the bluff top entertainment district, which has been dubbed as “adult entertainment;” though I gather it to not be X-rated, as the name would imply, but more likely bars and musical venues.

Perhaps it’s not a great conspiracy, but I learned last week that members of the committee were wooing supervisors to support the effort by meeting with them one-on-one or in small groups to skirt the legal requirement that a meeting of three or more elected officials discussing county business be open to the public — and the press.

Lobbying supervisors one or two at a time is perfectly legal.

Call me nuts, but I’d prefer when my tax dollars are going to be spent that any “lobbying” be done in public.

Taxpayers have a right to know what’s being discussed — or promised — as deals with public money are being discussed.

Sure, a pool is needed, but pools are costly, and taxpayers need to know how the pool will be managed, what the operating costs will be and more details before any decision is made.

Constructing it first, before the community has a long-term plan for recreation — and funding agreement — seems premature.

Far more residents would benefit if the city and county first invested in improving youth baseball, softball and soccer fields before throwing money into a swimming pool.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.