The Stuart Town Council approved giving the Stuart Parks and Recreation Association $2,500 and a reimbursement equal to its water and sewer costs at its March 15 meeting.
Association member Amy Corns said the funds would help keep the DeHart Park pool a break-even prospect.
“In order to pay the Virginia minimum wage of $12 per hour, we estimate this is going to add to our break-even budget currently another $20,000 to our annual budget,” she said.
Corns said the funds would help put a dent into the $20,000 budget deficit that the association is anticipating. The group is also planning to request annual financial assistance from the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.
“Our hope is that we the town, the county, and the park board, can all work together for the common goal of supporting our local pool, which in turn supports our county, and our town businesses as well as tourism by bringing in other people from other places who visit our local park and pool,” she said.
Corns said the funds will be earmarked specifically for chemicals, maintenance, repairs, and utilities, which will free the park’s board up to pay employees.
She also has researched and contacted recreation departments with a public pool within a 75-mile radius of Stuart, including as far as Winston-Salem in North Carolina, and all the way up to Roanoke.
“DeHart Park is the only pool that is not supported financially through the local government. All the facilities that I spoke to are funded each year by the local government, and I’m very proud that we, the DeHart Park Pool, have been able to maintain a self-sustained budget for over 40 years,” she said.
Corns added the facilities she talked to lose $15,000 to $20,000 a year. She also noted that DeHart Park is the most expensive pool.
“In Winston-Salem, entry fees are $2-3” to use the pool, she said. “In Galax, their prices are $5 for an adult and $1 per child. Our prices well exceed those surrounding us. We charge $7 per adult and $5 per child, so I don’t feel like we can raise our prices any more than we already have.”
Mayor Ray Weiland said the council wants to help because the pool benefits the whole county.
“We have been in a good position lately, and I feel like this is the kind of thing that I prefer, that if we have a little money, to spread a little bit around,” he said.
Town Manager Bryce Simmons asked what Patrick County’s contribution to the pool was, considering DeHart Park is owned by the county.
Board member Lindsey Puckett said the county’s normal contribution to the pool was zero.
“There is $0 to the pool. Last year, I think every park got $1,500, so it was fair. The pool does not see financial support from the county, and there have been a lot of discussions between us and the supervisors trying to give them this information, so it’s not new to them when we meet like this,” she said.
Corns said she has also met with several members of the board to explain the need and show them the numbers.
“To be honest with you, if we don’t get assistance, which I feel like we’re going to – I’m being very positive, that we would have to close our doors,” she said.
Weiland said the council will look into its budget to see if it can give additional funds for the pool “because we feel like it’s an important thing in this county to keep that pool going, and to give the kids an opportunity to get out there and have some fun.”
In other matters, the council:
*Approved the meeting minutes.
*Paid the bills.
*Accepted the Downtown Revitalization Plan.
*Discussed derelict properties.
*Approved going forward with blight removals.
*Heard an update on the wastewater treatment plant.
*Heard an update on public works.
*Discussed town policy.
*Approved an appraisal and feasibility study of the Star Theater that will be presented to the council at a future meeting.
*Discussed painting the caboose.
*Discussed the public works position and created a committee of Rebecca Adcock, Weiland, Jeff Houchins, and Terry Dalton to look at resumes and do the interview process.