Canton board to tackle pool issue

Apr 28, 2014

CANTON — Some changes have already been made in Canton after new Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss started work two weeks ago.

During his first board meeting as town manager, Mayor Mike Ray noted that Hendler-Voss rearranged the room so that the board, mayor, town counsel, town manager and assistant town manager all sit at one table.

"Before we looked like an administration divided from the board and this kind of puts us together," Ray said.

He thanked Hendler-Voss for facilitating the removal of a tree stump in town and for ordering new parts to make the water fountain across from Papertown Grill functional once again.

"Everything is moving right along. I'm very pleased with our transition. It's been very seamless," he said.

Taking on the pool

Now that the new board has completed their biggest task of filling the position of town manager, they are looking toward tackling another issue that has loomed over the town for years — what to do with the pool.

The aging pool has far exceeded the lifespan of a typical outdoor pool and it's unclear how much longer it will be operational.

Last year, McGill Associates, an engineering firm in Asheville, presented the previous board with a proposal of options of what to do with the pool.

To make effective repairs to the pool, engineers proposed filling voids found underneath the pool with a high-density resin and applying a Marcite coating to the surface — an estimated cost of about $313,000. That price did not even include the cost of addressing the water filtration system.

Completely replacing the pool was another option with a price tag of about $389,000.

The Medallion Pool Company, an Asheville company that specializes in design, engineering and construction of pools also recently looked at the pool and offered to create a development plan much like the proposal already made by McGill Associates.

"Their proposal was to essentially help do some design and development for the rec park pool to essentially guide the board in making a design decision over the renovation of that pool…" Hendler-Voss said.

However, to have Medallion Pool Company create that proposal would cost the town $4,000.

Every year, the town has simply affected small repairs at the pool, just enough to make it operational. Simply repairing the pool will not be a danger to the public, but it only continues to be a drain on the town's account.

Each year the town spends far more on pool operations than it makes in revenue. Seasonal pool operation usually costs about $150,000. Last season, the pool brought in about $39,000 and n the summer of 2012, revenue was about $55,000.

Hendler-Voss recommended the board meet during a work session to decide what direction they want to take with the pool, adding that he would help facilitate the conversation.

"That's the next critical step at this point is to determine whether the board feels that they want to patch and go and just keep the pool up and running for as long as we can, or whether the board wants to take this opportunity to clean the slate and start from the ground up and do something a little different. Possibly use this opportunity to upgrade other amenities within the park," Hendler-Voss said.

When the board chooses their direction to go with the pool, he said they can then develop a scope of services and determine what type of design and development they want.

"Then I would recommend that we issue a request for qualifications and Medallion Pools would be one of them to submit their qualification along with other pool vendors and we will spend that $4,000 as part of that process," he said.

Alderman Hamlett said he agreed with the town manager's recommendation. Alderman Smathers said he recommends the board, "make this decision in a work session so we don't kick this can down the road any longer. I would strongly suggest that we do not approve the Medallion proposal at this time."

Alderman Gail Mull agreed with Smathers and thanked Hendler-Voss for his recommendation as well.

Alderman Carole Edwards said she wanted the board to take some more time to consider what they want to do with the pool.

"Certainly we want to have something over there. We want to have that pool operational. I mean, it's the last outdoor pool of that size, I don't know about in the state of North Carolina, but at least in the western part of the state…that is something that we do need to move forward with and I, personally, don't want to drag our feet about it and make a decision about it as soon as possible," she said.

Until then, it's business as usual when it comes to readying the pool for this summer. This week, town workers could be found pressure washing the pool and preparing to fill the cracks with concrete and add another coat of sky blue paint.

A work session is scheduled at noon Thursday, May 8.

Camp Hope

In other business, the board moved on to discuss more about their decision to form a Camp Hope committee. The idea was approved during a previous board meeting at the request of the Friends of Camp Hope, an organization that looks after the camp and holds fundraisers.

Hendler-Voss suggested the board meet in a work session, perhaps the same work session regarding the pool, to discuss the committee, to develop a charter and begin flesh out the board's vision of the committee. He said at that time, the board could model the Camp Hope committee after other committees at the town and in the region to come up with its role and responsibilities.

Traditionally, town crews fill the pool so that middle and high school students can swim during P.E. classes at the end of the school year. It is usually opened to the public shortly after school lets out for the summer in early June.

At that time, board members can also discuss changing the deposit and rental fees at the property with recommendations from the Friends of Camp Hope to help guide their decision.

Dog ordinance

During the most recent town board meeting, the board continued the discussion of revising the dog ordinance to allow leashed dogs on the walking path at the Canton Recreation Park.

Before the vote at a previous board meeting, dogs were allowed only on the portion of the river trail beyond the bridge and not on rec park property.

Because of the amount of changes needed to the ordinance, Hendler-Voss brought a draft of the revised ordinance to the board for approval.

"It seems like from the staff perspective, this ordinance is moving in the right direction. It certainly is an improvement from what we have now, which is essentially lawlessness and lack of understanding," Hendler-Voss said.

The aldermen discussed allowing dogs to only walk on the trail and not in the grassy areas, covered pavilions or playground.

"If dogs are seen in open lawn areas, they will have to be asked to take their dogs to the trail area," Hendler-Voss said.

He suggested to design signs and place them in proper places to make the rules clear. He also said the ordinance must be clear that dog owners are responsible for waste pickup.

"To me it sounds like we need to sent this back and make it a bit more specific," Ray said of the drafted ordinance. "My feelings are we don't need to allow the dogs in the park, simply because of safety and health reasons. I know people make an effort to remove their dog's droppings…but very often this doesn't happen."

He said rec park visitors should not have to step in dog droppings and employees should not have to worry about mowing over it. He recommended dog owners enter and exit the park using paved areas rather than walking across any grassy area.

Edwards agreed that dogs should be only allowed on the sidewalk.

"I think it's a lot harder to dispose of waste in the grass than it is on pavement…" she said.

The board also discussed adding that the dog must stay within leash length of the owner while on the walking trail.

Hendler-Voss said the town will take discretion when it comes to enforcing the ordinance, however.

"We don't want to run our staff ragged cracking down on everyone that steps a few feet off the trail, so there will be some judgement calls involved, as long as you all are OK with that. But if someone is 20 feet off the trail or walking their dog in and out of the picnic pavilions, that will be pretty easily enforceable," Hendler-Voss said.

If people do not abide by the rules set forth in the ordinance, they can be fined $25.

The board will likely discuss purchasing dog waste stations when it comes time to draft the budget.

Alderman Concerns

During the alderman concerns portion of the agenda, Alderman Gail Mull asked the town manager to look into making sure the stop light leading to the mill entrance is a yellow flashing caution light early in the morning for Evergreen employees.

She was also concerned about the Welcome to Canton sign near the Black Bear Cafe that is hidden by a speed limit sign.

"I'm sure that we're not going to get DOT to change theirs, I'm sure we will have to change ours. But it does need to be relocated," Mull said.

Alderman Zeb Smathers said he was recently contacted by two families who live on Trammel Avenue who are concerned about people parking on the street.

He requested the town examine ideas to make the street safer because the families are worried about the possibility of their children being hit by a car as a result of blind spots created by vehicles parked on the street.

"The idea of speed bumps may be an option, but it may not be the appropriate one," Smathers said.

Mayor Ray said protocol when it comes to speed bumps is to get a certain number of concerned people to sign a petition and pay for some of the cost according to ordinance.

Alderman Carole Edwards said parking on Trammel Avenue has been an issue for several years.

"That was the same issue we had on Newfound Street and we decided a long time ago to stop individuals from parking out on Newfound Street. Maybe we should not have parking out on the street at Trammel Avenue," she said.

Edwards agreed that the issue merits being examined by town crews.