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Pool plan stirs panel's waves

After years of talks among leaders, the county's planning commission wants $1.5-million for a recreational facility with swimming as the main draw.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- Long on the community wish list, a public swimming pool has splashed into Hernando County's short-range plans.

It appears among several other projects added to the county comprehensive plan's five-year capital improvements section, which came to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday for its review and recommendations.

Other initiatives included new well fields in south-central and eastern Hernando, future phases of design and construction on roadways such as Spring Lake Highway, runway extensions at the county airport, and a new park at Sandler Drive and Landover Boulevard. The section, which gets an update every year, forecasts $61.8-million of work.

By far, the pool proposal triggered the most conversation. As Vice Chairman Anthony Palmieri put it to kick off the discussion, "What is this $1.5-million for a swimming pool?"

Parks Director Pat Fagan had sketchy details.

The pool had no set location, Fagan said, and the design does not exist. County Administrator Paul McIntosh said he planned to recommend about $500,000 for planning the pool in the county's 2000-2001 budget, but that item would be among the first to go if commissioners have other desires for the money.

Fagan said he expected the county would build more than a simple competition pool, because it would not draw as many people as a recreational facility with concessions, a kiddie pool and other accessories.

Drawing users will be important, Fagan said, as their fees will help pay to maintain the site. He estimated a pool would cost about $200,000 a year to keep up after the initial capital outlay.

County Commissioner Chris Kingsley, who revived the pool proposal about a year ago, said the comprehensive plan amendment seemed a "good place to start" for the pool. He acknowledged the calls from some corners for the county to work with the School Board and YMCA to secure a public pool.

But "a YMCA pool shouldn't be confused with a community pool," he said. "To use a YMCA pool, you have to be a YMCA member. There are plenty of people who don't have access to the YMCA."

Kingsley also commented on the expected complaints that nothing should come between residents and their road improvements.

"Roads are the No. 1 priority. Unfortunately, the need for a pool is coming up at the same time," Kingsley said. "The need for a pool will never go away just because we have to do the roads first. . . . It's not a matter of if it's going to occur now, but when. At least that's my hope."

County leaders have talked about a pool for about 10 years.

First, the county proposed building a pool. Then a private developer, Robert Raab, wanted to build a water park on school district property. Most recently, the YMCA and the city of Brooksville talked about a pool near the Jerome Brown Community Center. Until now, no formal steps have been taken toward building a pool.

For other areas, the county's five-year capital plan includes $12.36-million for water and sewer projects; $150,000 for solid waste; $14.17-million for work on major roads such as Jasmine and Sunshine Grove; $22.82-million for road improvements; $7.76-million for the airport and industrial complex; and $4.52-million for parks and recreation.

The County Commission will hear the planning commission's recommendations in July. It then must send its amendments to the state Department of Community Affairs for approval.

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