Newport City Council: Full speed ahead on the new pool – authorizes bond sale – “Voters have spoken”
A small group of new municipal pool supporters sat on one side of the aisle and those against the new pool sat on the other. At the end of the Newport City Council meeting the vote was unanimous among the councilors to move ahead with the sale of the $7.9 million in general obligation bonds to build the new pool that was passed by the voters – even if the vote was a close one – by 46 votes.
During testimony before the council, local attorney Alice Vachss urged the council to stop the pool, claiming the city has far more urgent need of better sewer, water and street systems than a new pool. She urged the council to hold another vote during a more busy voting time, like the general election in November of next year.
“Yes on Pool” backer Rhonda Harmon urged the council to move forward on the bond sale saying it doesn’t matter what the margin was, as long as a majority has spoken – in this case a majority of a majority of registered voters, voted in favor of the pool.
Local property owner Lou Limbrunner told the council that a new pool makes no sense when they could fix up the old one for around a million dollars – far less than the nearly eight million for a new one. Limbrunner also strongly implied that the city’s efforts to buy additional property near city hall should also be added to the total price because the pool is creating the need for more nearby parking.
Councilor Mark Saelens said the public has had two votes on the issue – both no and yes by very slim margins. Saelens said Newport is a town with close votes on a lot of issues, including who gets elected to the city council. Saelens said the voters have spoken and that the council should proceed forward by ordering nearly $8 million in bonds be sold to investors.
The council vote was unanimous – sell the bonds. Mayor Sandra Roumagoux and councilors Beemer, Saelens and Swanson congratulated the pool supporters in the audience for running a strong “Yes” campaign which no doubt made the difference.
Newport resident Carla Perry asked the council to search in earnest for any grant money that might be out there to help pay for part or all of the eight million. Mayor Roumagoux assured Perry the city would do that if such grant monies are found. But Public Works Director Tim Gross has said repeatedly that grant monies for swimming pools just aren’t out there. Streets, storm sewers, water and sewer systems, yes. Pools, no.
The bond sale is expected to occur within the next couple of weeks. After that the architects will begin the detailed design work. Then construction. As for when Parks and Recreation Director Jim Protiva is the first to be unceremoniously tossed into the pool, that’s probably three years away. And there are many swimmers, young and old, who have their fingers crossed that the old pool will last that long. Gross says the nearly 50 year old pool is on its last legs.