To find out if the public would support a new swimming pool in Carroll County, Supervisor Bob Martin wants that question put on a ballot referendum in the November election.
Martin made the suggestion during the Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ July 16 meeting. He talked about an e-mail he received from a man that has been taking his family to Randolph Park in neighboring Pulaski County because of its large swimming pool area. Martin said there is a tremendous amount of people from Carroll County who visit Randolph Park.
“This person was outlining what it cost him to go down there and he thought it would be a positive for Carroll County if we had something like that,” Martin said. “I’d like to see the possibility of putting on a referendum in November if Carroll County should proceed with the idea of constructing an outdoor swimming pool. It may be voted down, but I know that is a concern.”
Martin said he’d even be willing to visit Randolph Park and gather information from Pulaski County officials.
Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Sam Dickson said he would like to know how much Pulaski County has to spend to supplement the pool at Randolph Park.
“There is a drive on facebook and I agree we need it,” Dickson said. “We have to figure out how to pay for it, but we do need a pool and we need a nice one.”
The facebook page Dickson mentioned, titled Carroll County Citizens in favor of a Water Park/Pool, was up to 2,122 members as of Monday morning in less than three weeks since the group was created.
Martin said he had spoken to a person he did not name who indicated a willingness to donate land for a swimming pool/water park. Dickson said the county should invite Carroll County Tourism and Recreation Director Sam McLendon to a meeting to see if the rec department has any ideas of where to start with a swimming pool project.
“Yes, let’s see if people support it,” Martin said.
Carroll County shut down its swimming pool in the Carroll County Recreation Park in 2009 when county officials had to cut $1.6 million to balance its budget for Fiscal Year 2009-2010. County officials noted at the time that annual repairs on the pool’s water heater and other issues had actually caused the county to lose over $50,000 in each of the pool’s last two years. The pool area was torn down in 2011.
Lisa Payne Delp, who created the facebook page “Carroll County Citizens in favor of a Water Park/Pool” on July 7, said the page has far exceeded her expectations. She said she started it after her 11-year-old daughter’s latest birthday.
“She always wants to go to the pool on her birthday. She loves Randolph Park and for the last six or seven years that is where we’ve been a lot,” Delp said. “Every time we go there is always people from Carroll and Galax we recognize and talk to, and every year we are always saying, ‘I wish they would build something like this in our county.’”
Delp argues that for most Carroll County and Galax citizens, a day at Randolph Park requires a 45-minute drive each way. That is an hour-and-a-half of time you can’t get back.
“And by the time you finish in one day you spend over $100 when you include your gas and your food. You have well over what it should cost to go to the pool for a day,” Delp said. “I got to thinking about it the next day and why Carroll thinks they can’t support something like this when most of the people are there anyway. I had a lot of comments and just wanted to see if people in Carroll County were interested in something like this.”
Already, the facebook drive seems to be creating a buzz in Carroll County. Delp said she began by writing some e-mails to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors and to Carroll’s new recreation direction. McLendon e-mailed her back and they met July 16, she said.
“I talked with him and it did give me hope. I believe he is in favor of it,” Delp said. “I think his degree is in Parks and Recreation Development, so I believe he could be someone in leading us to a park that could succeed — not just a water park, but a new facility. People all over the country are realizing if we have something different and invest in our people, it will brings job and growth.”
She realizes cost will be a major factor in Carroll’s decision to move forward or not with a new swimming pool/rec park. She thinks the county should be able to qualify for Rural Development grants, however, especially since the area has been hit hard in recent years with job losses.
“And we want to work with the supervisors, not against them. It is about what can we do as a community to make this happen? We haven’t done that in Carroll County. It seems like it’s always been easy just to say who was to blame? Well, we know that. It’s time to get past that, roll up our sleeves as a community and see what we can do,” Delp said. “Where is the land we can utilize? Where is the best place for it, and what is the best thing we can do to bring in jobs? Let’s ask the supervisors what information they need from the public.”
Delp said she will be meeting again with McLendon in a month. In the meantime, she said she is looking at areas with similar populations and temperatures as Carroll County to see what they are doing.
“What I found has been pretty amazing. A lot of areas are making aquatic places like Randolph Park, but many are doing indoor pools they can use all year,” Delp said. “The (Carroll) Wellness Center is great, but it’s so expensive and most kids like to be out in the sun. I would like to see something where they have sprays and things like that. That is what I am finding in researching different communities and different things they have done. It comes down to they have invested in their own people because they believe it will bring economic growth.”
For starters, she said the construction of a new water park would employ many local folks currently out of work. And one needs only to look at Dublin to see how much Randolph Park has revitalized that community. She argues that the Wal-Mart wasn’t there before Randolph Park, and restaurants such as Arby’s and Fatz have opened since then as well.
“It has really grown and I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Delp said.
The biggest thing now will be to keep the interest up, she believes. If Carroll County is able to pose the question of county support for a swimming pool as a referendum in November, she believes the county will truly have the opinion of the people.