Shocking revelations by three councilmembers have called into question the accuracy of a recent resident survey. Dramatic confessions from the podium at Jan. 14th city council meeting, caused pandemonium. Almost.
Councilmembers Rubin Snipper, Terry Seamens, and Colleen Clay admitted in public testimony that they had each received one of the approximately 3000 resident surveys and filled them out. This, they admit, skews the results of one of the questions “In the last 12 months, about how many times, if ever, have you. . . Attended a City Council meeting in person?.”
The guilty (or more accurately, sheepish) parties were not taken into custody, nor were they tasered.
The survey results that were perhaps of most interest were those that showed the amount of interest, and willingness to pay for, a municipal gym. Detractors of the plan have been pushing for this, saying that it was driven by an unrepresentative but influential gang of activists and politicians. Members of this gang can be seen loitering in school yards, coaching soccer.
The detractors are probably unhappy to find that 83% of the respondents support the gym and only 17% do not. Support is higher among renters, younger residents, and those of lower income.
More bad news for the gym detractors – 69% approve of assessing additional fees ($50 on a homes with a property value of $400,000) on homeowners. 80% of the renters taking the survey supported it, more than the 60% of homeowners who did, but that is still a majority of homeowners.
We suspect detractors will seize upon the fact that 25% of the respondents checked off “don’t know” on these questions. We have yet to see how long it would take to make the 5 to 8 million dollars needed build a gym at the $50 a year per $400,000 home rate. And, then there is the yearly expense of operating a gym – from $75,000 to $100,000. Plenty there for the detractors to complain about, yet.
Still, that 83% support for the gym was cited later in the evening during a discussion about what to do with 1.2 million dollars in grant money, originally intended for the gym, but more recently proposed to fund renovations to the council chambers. The renovations would convert the chambers into a community performance space.
There are second thoughts about that proposal, and some backing off from previous statements that the funds will not be available if they are not used soon. Councilmember Terry Seamens questioned the redirection of the funds, saying that his constituents are unhappy that the gym appears to have been put on hold, or even abandoned, while other projects go forward. The gym, which would be located in Seamens’ Ward 4, has strong support there from renters, who make up the majority of the ward’s population.
Complicating the issue is the pool. Vocal elements of the community want the Piney Branch Elementary School pool reopened. Most vocal, most visible, and most irresistible (emotionally and politically) are the children who have addressed and petitioned the council on the issue. Last year the council learned the hard way not to disappoint the pint-sized pool party – their initial lack of response nearly got them tarred and feathered. So, the council, which now understands that disapointing a voter’s child is political suicide, firmly backs reopening the pool.
Therefore, they cast withering glares in the direction of the county school superintendent Jerry Weast who suggests converting the pool space into a gym. Weast apparently thinks he can solve his problem (getting rid of the costly pool) by pretending to solve our problem (finding a place to put a gym). But, we’re not as stupid as we look. Not only would that infuriate the pint-sized ones and their voting parents, but, as the council well knows having looked into using local school gyms instead of building one, it would not solve the problem. School gyms are county run and give no priority to the communities where the gyms are located. Local gyms are booked solid by groups from all over the county. And, of course they are not available during school hours and are closed on snow days when they would be greatly needed.
On the other hand, if the county would grant local control, it is a tempting way for some on the council to solve the gym problem. But, not tempting enough to bite on Weast’s baited hook, yet. Of course, this means a public hearing! Let the community scrutinize the hook, first
So, Dear Readers, swim on over to the public hearing on the fate of the pool Monday Feb. 11, at 6:45 pm at the City Council Chambers.