A larger outdoor pool, in a new location and with new amenities, could potentially be a break-even operation for Leitchfield, according to a financial feasibility study conducted for the city’s Tourism Commission.
Consultants Counsilman-Hunsaker presented their findings to the commission during a special meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18. They did a study on a possible 8,500 square foot outdoor complex featuring more than 5,000 square feet of pool area and 3,500 square feet of changing rooms, offices and other support facilities.
Site development, building the pool and other expenses such as permit fees would run about $2.6 million, according to their projects — still about $500,000 more than the commission wanted to spend.
According to the consultants, the pool could generate about $129,000 per season in revenues — based on attendance estimates of about 20,000 people per season, roughly double that of the current pool — and would have about $140,000 in operating expenses. The consultants based those numbers, in part on admission fees ranging from $5 for children who live in Leitchfield to $8 for out-of-town adults.
That projected $11,000 shortfall is less than the current $40,000 subsidy Leitchfield provides its pool.
And while the construction costs are over the commission’s $2.1 million threshold, operating costs and debt service would still be below the $300,000 annually the commission had wanted to devote to the project.
“We had our hearts set on an indoor pool,” tourism director Ilsa Johnson said, but the people she’s spoken with have indicated an outdoor pool would be used.
Mayor William Thomason urged the commission to make a decision that morning, noting it would take more than a year for the project to be completed. “We need to get it started,” he said. “The commission needs to take a vote on it, whether we move along with it or scrap it.”
That met some resistance on the part of commission chairman Mark Smith, who said he wanted some time to study the consultants’ report.
Commissioner Jeanna Carners said she’s still trying to determine if public sentiment is running against an outdoor pool, or simply against the restaurant tax being used to pay for it.
“I’d just feel better if I felt there was a community desire for” an outdoor pool, she said.
“I think it’s a beautiful project. It certainly improves what we have — for 60 days a year,” commissioner Randy Pawly, a proponent of an indoor pool, said.
He noted that the community has been trying for years to get some type of indoor exercise and swimming facility for several years, and again questioned why the commission can’t simply announce it is saving up money for an indoor pool.
The mayor and city council member Steven Elder, who also attended the meeting, said the “political atmosphere” around town is such that if a project isn’t started soon, it might never be. The mayor also noted that the city’s current pool will have to be closed in a few years unless it undergoes major renovations.
“If we need to do something today, for some reason, then yeah, it’s a good project,” Pawly said. “But I still think we could look at other options.”
In the end, the commission voted to hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21, to give members time to review the study.
Also during Friday’s meeting they are expected to discuss the resignation of commissioner Jose Soto. In a letter to Johnson dated Monday, Dec. 17, he said “circumstances beyond my control and recent event(s) which are best not to disclose here,” he needed to step down immediately.
He could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.