City votes to close large swimming pool

Citing damages from a vehicle slamming into the city’s pool, regular deficits, poor use, and calls for a children’s splash pad, Oneonta City Council members voted to fill in the city’s large pool, leaving only the children’s and slide pools available for this year’s summer activities. City manager/economic developer Ed Lowe reported pool damage from the Oct. 3 accident at $65,000 with a limit of $25,000 on the driver’s insurance policy.

Lowe also quoted a similar $65,000 loss in yearly operating expenses. He and some council members have advocated replacing the large pool with a splash pad. Under questioning by councilman Richard Phillips, Lowe explained the proposed pad cannot be ready before the 2020 season. He called for filling in the pool to prevent stagnant water accumulation until work on the possible splash pad can begin.

In his report to the council, Lowe reported heavy rains have led to a slide problem along the city’s street ascending Shuff Mountain. Lowe estimates that repairing the street and other slide issues may run $100,000. He noted officials have submitted a request to the state for assistance, but have yet to hear on that.

Immediately prior to the meeting, councilors held two public hearings. The first of these dealt with the question of tax abatement for Jones Valley Fabrication in its plan to open a plant in Oneonta. Blount County Economic Development director Don Mitchell had presented the request at the Feb. 12 session.

Councilman Danny Robinson expressed concern that the Feb. 26 request differed from the prior and asked to table the matter. Mitchell and his assistant Lisa Baker expressed concern that any delay in approval could jeopardize employment and operation.

Mayor Ross Norris sided with Robinson, contending that the council could still decide within a few days on the request. Following that discussion, a majority of councilors agreed to the motion to table. [Officials later scheduled a special called meeting for Monday, March 4, to consider the request. See accompanying article on page A12.]

Councilors approved Raj Patel’s annexation request for property across Ala 75 North from the Alabama Power maintenance station. They approved the request despite its failure to appear on the printed agenda.

Councilors approved separation of two categories within the city’s business license listing. Public safety director Brandon Horton had advised councilors of the needed change to comply with state requirements for certified roofers at the Feb. 12 meeting. The city’s licensing had included roofers with gutter and siding installers. The council had held a 5:20 public hearing on that topic after its 5:10 Jones Valley Fabrication discussion.

Councilors declared several items from the public works department as surplus, thus setting the stage for their sale through sealed bids. Members also voted to advertise for seasonal temporary jobs with the library and city pool and reappoint Bob Harvey and Ed Lowe to the city’s planning commission.

Members recessed into executive session for the stated purpose of “preliminary negotiations involving matters of trade and commerce,” with a promise of no action after the session.

Councilors Nathaniel Butler and Tonya Rogers joined Robinson, Phillips, and Norris for the Feb. 26 meeting; councilman Hal Blackwood was absent. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.