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Indoor pool top Bond Task Force talker

A rendering of the proposed indoor aquatic center at Maumelle.
A rendering of the proposed indoor aquatic center at Maumelle.

The Maumelle Bond Task Force met last Wednesday night and it was a full house at the Jess Odom Community Center as around 100 people were in attendance.

The mission statement of the committee is stated as “Provide a recommendation to City Council for the consideration of potential capital improvement projects that would be funded under the current property tax millage obligation.”

Parks and Recreation presented two proposals that would cost a combined $10 million.

The bigger of the two projects was an indoor aquatics center that would host a lap pool for competitive swimming and a heated therapy pool that would have water aerobics and could be used by those recovering from surgeries, among other reasons.

Mayor Mike Watson presented the project that has a price tag of around $9 million.

The facility would be connected to the Community Center and would remove some parking from the south side of the current building.

Watson said he looked at five other cities in Arkansas that had indoor pool facilities. They are: Bryant, Cabot, Heber Springs, Jacksonville and Paragould.

Watson said the construction would be in the $7.7 million range, with an additional $1.5 million in contingency costs and that was based on a 2012 study. The facility could cost potentially more.

Watson said he didn’t expect the facility to make money.

“The best we can hope for is it to break even” he said and cited the outdoor pool as how the facility could go.

“Last year, the outdoor pool turned a $10,000 profit,” Watson said. “It had $210,000 in expenses and $220,000 in revenue.”

But, the year before, Watson said the outdoor pool lost $30,000.

“I wish we knew,” Watson said and added in a later interview, “I think the indoor pool would be beneficial.”

The large crowd on hand was uniformly in support of the indoor pool.

Karen Lamoreaux, who serves on the Bond Task Force and is a private swimming instructor, said “programming revenue” was grossly underestimated and that the revenue “would be significant.”

That, though, Lamoreaux said, hinged on changing the mindset of Maumelle residents and the amount of fees they would have to pay to use the facility for its various uses.

The smaller of the two projects was to increase the number of fields at the softball and baseball complexes.

Phillip Raborn, head of the city’s Parks and Recreation department made the presentation and said that youth softball and baseball, including T-ball, were now limited to the number of teams they could field as access to the facilities was a juggling act.

Raborn said that 18 teams played in the adult softball league and that 17 teams played youth softball. He added that neither league could add teams.

He said that the youth softball league hosted “three to four tournaments” a year to provide funding for their operations.

Raborn said the league paid for its own chalk, among other things, for the fields but that the league missed out on, potentially, $65,000 because the facility doesn’t have the space to add additional tournament games.

The high school team at Maumelle also uses the facility.

Adding a total of three fields would cost a little more than a million dollars and would add one additional to the Parks and Rec payroll.

Both items were discussed but no further action was taken.

Task Force chairman Craig Johnson, who also serves on the city’s Planning Commission, said presentations on other projects would be held on Oct. 8.

That meeting would start at 6:30 p.m. and would be held in the City Council chambers at City Hall.

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