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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Commission News

School Board Looking For County Residents To Take Over Cost Of Running District Pool


The Columbia County School District aquatic center.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night at the County Commission meeting, 34 year veteran School Board member Glen Hunter stood in front of the County Commission to convince them to assume the District's aquatic center. He came without any history of usage, maintenance or staff costs and never mentioned how much it cost to run the pool. In legendary Columbia County, this is business as usual.

Mr. Hunter told the County Commission, "It is getting more difficult for the school system to manage the cost of running a recreational facility like the swimming pool. I come to you tonight to ask you to consider an interlocal agreement to manage the swimming pool."

He continued, "As a school program, we can't manage a county wide recreational program. We have a wonderful facility... It's costing the school system roughly about 50 to 100 thousand dollars in additional dollars above what it takes in to manage the pool... That's not a negative thing... the aquatics program is a quality of life program."

Mr. Hunter recommended that the district and county staffs "get together and look at the dollars and cents."

Financial Information - Not for county residents

Mr. Hunter did not bring any financial information to present to the County and the public. The County Commission didn't ask for any. None was furnished before the meeting.

"This is the last recreational facility that we haven't touched in a special way to create more gains and enhancement," said Mr. Hunter. No one asked him what that meant.

Commissioner Ronald Williams called the pool "a white elephant from the start." Then he added that he didn't have a problem looking at the possibilities of some kind of joint venture, "Because we have some children that swim that does not play soccer or baseball... We take care of our youth."

Commission Stephen Bailey asked, "Why do you need the County other than just for dollars?"

Mr. Hunter answered, "We tend to look at this as more of a recreational activity and the County government manages recreational activities. We want to be a partner because we have a part that is swim teams. Beyond that we do not deal in recreational services."

Commissioner Jody DuPree asked Mr. Hunter what he was looking for.

Mr. Hunter said, "This is a facility that is going nowhere."

Commissioner DuPree, "You're wantin us to come to the table so we can talk about it, right?"

Mr. Hunter responded, "I'd like to come to the table and bring enough people to the table to work out a solution that is good for the county."

The County Commission decided to send someone to speak with the district in order to decide the future of the aquatic center.

This is Columbia County. No one mentioned this should be a public meeting.

How much does it cost?

Independent research after the meeting revealed that it costs $100,000 a year to operate the pool. At the present time the only school organization to use the pool is the High School swim team, September through November.

The City and County children use the pool during the summer for recreation.

It appears that the money the pool brings in from fees is enough to pay the salaries. Last year the Aquatic Center ran an $85,000 deficit.

During the winter months it can cost $10k per month to heat the water, which can fall to 45 degrees.

Epilogue

Once again, the County's good ole boys will be working overtime to leave its residents out of the loop, while scheming to pick their pockets for another un-mandated program.

When the state or the feds do it, the county fathers will cry it's bad business. When the county's good ole boys do it, it's business as usual. 

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