By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
It was called half of a project, limited in scope, and “simply not enough”, but in the end, the New Albany City Council approved the design of an outdoor aquatic center Thursday.
The financing in the form of a bond note had previously been OK’d by the body, and with a 7-2 vote the council stamped the aquatic center, as well as a multi-use recreational facility and a makeover of Binford Park, as ready for construction.
Several members of the public spoke primarily about the aquatic center design — which was prepared by The Estopinal Group — with the majority opposing the plan.
New Albany resident Sam Schad recently presented Mayor Jeff Gahan with a letter and a petition with 302 names of people who wanted to see a more expansive aquatic center that could host competitive swim meets.
While the lazy river and zero-depth entry pool are worthy features, Schad said the aquatic center as designed doesn’t meet the needs of the community.
The aquatic center will be located at the former Camille Wright pool site, but Schad said it won’t match the attributes of the previous facility.
“The pool was used just as much for fitness as it was recreation,” he said of Camille Wright during the meeting.
The aquatic center should include a 50-meter pool for competitive swimming, Schad continued, though he added that at least a 25-meter facility would be better than what will be built.
“It’s as simple as taking this plan and drawing a rectangle in the middle,” he said.
Camille Wright was named after the New Albany native and Olympian. Susan Stoy said she grew up swimming competitively with Wright, and the city is missing out by not providing a more complete facility.
“I was astonished at the short-sightedness of it,” she said of the design.
Those who spoke in favor of the pool design during the public comments portion of the meeting were either members of the administration or New Albany Parks Department appointments.
Parks board member Greg Henderzahs said it’s time for New Albany to move forward with the aquatic center, which is estimated to be completed by the summer of 2015.
“This is an opportunity,” he said. “For so many years we have become stagnant.”
Gahan told the council that the projects will help “redevelop and reinvigorate” physically depressed areas of the city.
He also encouraged the council to approve the designs without more delay.
“These projects will make New Albany an even better place to live and call home,” Gahan said.
Council members Diane McCartin-Benedetti and Kevin Zurschmiede voted against the resolution. Zurschmiede said the council would be “missing the boat” if it chose not to listen to the concerns of the public.
“By far and away, the vast majority of the constituents I’ve talked to are against the pool idea,” he said.
Even Councilman John Gonder, who voted in favor of the designs, said the aquatic center could be more complete.
“I do think we’re selling the public short with this,” he said.
Gonder requested Gahan meet with local education officials to determine what it would take financially to open school pools to the public, to which the mayor responded that he would.
Several members of the council also pledged to revisit the design for a possible amendment to include six or eight lanes at the aquatic center for lap swimming.
As designed, the estimated $8 million to $9 million facility will have three lanes.
The multi-use recreational center is to be located at the former Hoosier Panel site, and the Binford Park project will entail irrigation improvements, additional lighting and the leveling of fields for soccer and youth football.
The bond closing for the projects is slated for next month, and could be worth as much as $19.6 million.
BICENTENNIAL AUDIT TABLED
Zurschmiede tabled his resolution calling for an audit of the New Albany Bicentennial Commission, as he said more information has been presented to him on the matter.
Though he didn’t expound on the information, Zurschmiede said he does plan on bringing the resolution up for a vote during the council’s next meeting in June.
Earlier this month, former bicentennial treasurer Vic Megenity presented the council with a list of nonprofit violations he said occurred due to lack of documentation of expenses and revenue by one of the commission members.
Gonder said the issue needs to be resolved quickly so that the public can be made aware of what transpired.
He said Megenity “threw a fish out on the table and we need to deal with it.”
PAVING, SIREN FUNDING APPROVED
On final readings, the council approved $2 million for paving this year and $46,000 for the purchase and installation of two tornado sirens.
The council is still expected to request funding help for the sirens from Floyd County.
The sirens will be located on the Spring Street fire station and in Bicknell Park.