AUGUSTA — Plans to move ahead with construction on the Augusta public pool were approved Wednesday by Augusta City Council.
Discussion on funding sources for the pool have been a topic of discussion for several months. The pool was shut down in July 2017 after the city found several issues that needed to be corrected. Earlier this year, city council bid out the renovations for the pool and received a bid from PSS Contractors for $340,000.
The city waited to accept the bid until funding could be found.
Augusta Mayor Wendell High told council he now has the funding for the renovations ready to go. That funding includes a $200,000 loan from US Bank that must be repaid over seven years with a payment of $2,900 per month and a balloon payment at the end of the loan’s life.
In order to secure the loan, the city also had to use the Clooney Community Center as collateral.
“I’ll go ahead and tell the bank to move forward with the loan,” High said. “They have some paperwork that will need to be completed and they’ll have to look at (Clooney Community Center) since it will have to be used as collateral.”
In March, the Bracken County Fiscal Court also approved an advance of $150,000 to the city in order to make repairs to the pool. The money was already given to the city each year in the amount of $7,500. Now, the city will receive 20 years of funding in a lump sum.
During Wednesday’s meeting, High said he wanted to have the project bid approved by next month, but Council Member Joe Goecke said he saw no reason to wait.
“I don’t want to leave the pool sitting out there,” he said. “I don’t see any problem with moving forward on this.”
High said he agreed and offered three options for repaying the loan. The first was a nickel tax added to the property tax. However, assessments had not yet been returned from the state and the council would be required to publish the tax twice and hold a public hearing before approving it. If the the tax were to be challenged by the public, it would have to be placed on the November ballot.
“There’s no guarantee on that nickel tax,” High said.
Goecke said he would like to see the nickel tax dropped and find the funding in another source.
“I’d just like to forget that five cent tax and look at other options,” he said. “Maybe raise the payroll and insurance taxes.”
High said he had looked into raising both. If the insurance tax was raised from 5 percent to 7 percent, it would generate an extra $31,000 per year and if the insurance tax was raised from 1.25 percent to 1.35 percent, it would generate an extra $27,000 per year.
Goecke asked about raising the payroll tax by 1 percent instead of 2.
“I would like to see us maybe raise the payroll tax by just 1 percent and then raise the insurance tax,” he said.
No decision was made on how to repay the loan, but High said it would be a topic at the August meeting.
“At the next meeting, you all will have to find a way to fund this thing,” he said.
Council also approved a billing agreement with the Augusta Regional Water Authority.
At a previous meeting, John Yingling, with ARSA, asked the council if it would be willing to approve city employees maintaining the billing for the organization at no charge for a period of one year when the new wastewater plant goes online.
“I’m asking you to do this because if you charge us for the billing, we have no other recourse but to pass that on to the customer,” Yingling said at the June 22 council meeting. “The city of Brooksville has already given us a verbal agreement that they will not charge ARSA for the billing. However, the county has to charge something, though I’m unsure of the amount that will be right now.”
Goecke said he saw no issue with approving it for one year.
The council approved the measure.