Let there be more swimming | Arkansas Blog

Let there be more swimming

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Two city swimming pools that were scheduled to close in mid-July because of budget cuts will now stay open until July 31, Assistant City Manager Bryan Day says.

Though the City Board approved the shortened schedule at the Jim Dailey Fitness outdoor pool (War Memorial pool) and Southwest Community Center pools when it approved the budget last year, directors asked about the pool closures at Tuesday’s board meeting. Day said City Manager Bruce Moore and Parks and Recreation Director Truman Tolefree met later in the week to figure out a way to keep the pools, which serve several hundred kids a day, open a little longer. Day didn't know this morning what was sacrificed to keep the pools open, but added that operating the pools is expensive, something like $17,000 a month.

The pools will still close in August, the hottest month of the year. City Director Stacy Hurst will try to tack on another two weeks, she said Thursday, though she acknowledged she’s not sure where the money will come from. With reduced income from lowered utility franchise fees, the city is in worse financial straits than expected.
What’s needed: A new tax for parks (and other purposes, we'd add). Mayor Stodola, who's up for re-election this year, isn’t interested. But, Hurst said, it’s time for a “serious discussion with the community” about finding funds to maintain the city’s parks.

UPDATE: Mayor Stodola objected to the phrasing about his lack of interest in raising new revenue. He says he's long said the city has one of the lowest city sales tax rates in the state and should study an increase, probably devoted to a mixture of public safety, public works and parks. But the recession was not the time to propose a tax increase, he said. Next year, with signs of a slow recovery underway, should be the time. He added he was near an agreement with the state Correction Department to arrange for some inmate labor to do park maintenance.

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