Canton breaks ground on new pool
CANTON — It’s been a long, hard road, littered with obstacles, but Canton finally broke ground on its new pool.
Tuesday morning, a ceremony was held to commemorate the official beginning of construction.
“The groundbreaking is a bittersweet moment for the community because we’re removing a pool which holds 70 years of memories,” Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss said prior to the groundbreaking. “But we’re replacing it with a dynamic pool which will make another 70 years of good memories.”
The groundbreaking brought out Canton and Haywood County officials, as well as residents from all around. The ceremony was short and sweet, and as soon as the shovels were thrust into the soil, the track-hoe on the scene began tearing into the old pool’s shell.
“We are continuing our legacy and heritage of … having an aquatic center and pool for our community, and even for Western North Carolina,” Mayor Mike Ray said in an address just prior to the groundbreaking.
Dr. Albert Kline was a freshman at Duke when the old pool was constructed back in 1949. From the time he returned to Canton in 1954 to practice dentistry, he said the pool was a major part of his family. Through the years, he said he's seen how vital the pool has been to the region.
“People in Enka and Hominy Valley would use the pool,” he said. “Buses would bring the kids down from there to swim daily.”
Following the groundbreaking, Ray said that he is thrilled to finally have begun the project, which has been years in the making.
“It is bittersweet, but it’s getting sweeter as time goes,” he said.
Ray said in his address prior to the groundbreaking that making the new pool a reality for Canton was a promise the current aldermen ran on, and they were willing to make it happen, despite multiple hurdles.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle was encountered when a 40-year USDA loan fell through, leaving a blindsided Hendler-Voss to scramble to find alternatives. Luckily, after some serious searching, the town locked down a 15-year, $775,000 loan at below 3 percent interest.
Along with the loan, another key aspect of the financing has been donations and grants received by the community. While the $350,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant put the largest dent in the almost $2.2 million project, the largest local sponsor was Champion Credit Union, which donated a whopping $200,000 to receive naming rights.
“It’s a testamant to how rooted Champion Credit Union is in this town and this community,” Hendler-Voss said.
Another crucial piece of financing has not yet come through. The town has been spending time and energy on lobbying the county board of commissioners for $50,000 to use for the pool project. Although Hendler-Voss said he hasn’t heard anything official, he feels confident the donation will come through.
But even with the loan and the donations and grants, Hendler-Voss still made it a priority to mention the fundraising efforts at the groundbreaking ceremony, offering pamphlet to those interested in the town's buy-a-brick fundraiser.
“We need to be vigilant about raising money,” Hendler-Voss said.
Keith Corbeil, the pool’s certified operator and chief fundraiser for the project, echoed Hendler-Voss’s sentiments.
“I truly hope everyone sees this project and as it unfolds it will move them to be part of the centerpiece of this community and this region, and they’ll buy a brick to help commemorate it,” he said.
Project Manager Jacob Benson from Brantley Construction, the company which was awarded the contract, said the demolition shouldn’t take more than a week and that the scheduled completion date is Aug. 6. He added that he this is the first pool project the company has undertaken, and said he is happy to a part of it.
“From Brantly Construction’s standpoint, we’re looking forward to being part of the project and helping make this park a reality for the community,” he said.
Hendler-Voss is optimistic that if the weather is mild and there are no other unforeseen circumstances, that the pool could be completed by mid-July, but that they are still shooting for the beginning of August.
Whenever construction is completed, town officials all agree that the pool will — just like its predecessor — be a cornerstone of the community for years to come.
“This pool will allow us to take rec programs to the next level,” Hendler-Voss said. “It’s going to continue to serve in that way into the future.”