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In the deep end: Can city find the money to run pool?

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Wanted: donations and advertising dollars to pay for lifeguards, chlorine and water for a pool park in Greenwood.

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers is looking for funding from businesses to operate an aquatic center the city plans to build, and officials agree the city needs a pool.

City council members Bruce Armstrong and Ezra Hill have questioned the value of building a full aquatic center with a pool, lazy river and leisure pool that is expected to have a $200,000 operational shortfall. Armstrong said the city could be better off building the project in phases, as he’s suggested in the past.

The pool park is slated to open in May 2015, and a pool engineering company recently estimated the Greenwood aquatic center would cost a minimum of $200,000 more to operate than it would earn.

The mayor has said he’s confident he’ll find businesses to pay the project’s operating costs by paying to put their company names on buildings and water features, Myers said. Some city council members have volunteered to help ask for money, he said. Businesses have shown interest, he said, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

Hill said he wasn’t certain, but he thought donations and advertising possibly could cover an operating shortfall for the aquatic center, and he would help with fundraising if asked.

The city’s first attempt at fundraising for a city project was in 2013, when the mayor asked businesses and residents to partner financially to pay for City Center Park. He hoped last summer to raise $300,000 toward the approximately $840,000 park with wheelchair-accessible playground equipment and a splash pad.

The city ended up getting nearly $170,000 from businesses, city employees and residents, controller Adam Stone said. Of that total, Endress+Hauser, Huntington National Bank, Franciscan St. Francis Health and the Sertoma Club donated $25,000 each. Business names are on a sign and paving stones at the park.

Not everyone on the city council is volunteering to help raise money or recruit companies to put their names on the aquatic center, its concession stand and water slides. Council members aren’t certain selling advertising and collecting donations will cover the expected annual shortfall for Greenwood’s aquatic center.

Since residents weren’t given the chance to vote on the aquatic center project, council member Ron Bates is opposed to the project on principle.

“I don’t think I could campaign for something that I was fundamentally opposed to to begin with,” he said.

Armstrong said he wouldn’t know what businesses to ask about funding for the aquatic center, but it’s definitely the city’s job to come up with the money.

“I haven’t seen the interest from anybody that’s ready to step up and pay that kind of money to put their name on various features,” he said. “I do believe it is the city’s responsibility to cover that and feel that going to a private entity and asking for them to come up with the money is a bit impractical.”

The city would need to find the money every year to cover any operational costs the aquatic center couldn’t pay for itself.

Bates said he would have preferred the taxpayers vote on the pool project and increase taxes if they want to see it funded. Collecting donations or selling advertising space at the aquatic center wouldn’t be as reliable an income source as tax dollars, he added.

“Personally, I think that it’s really risky,” Bates said. “It seems like it’s asking the community a lot.”

Other council members did not return phone calls or declined to comment.

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