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Council makes waves for pool project

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By Brent Schanding

Landmark News Service

The Eminence City Council Tuesday agreed to forego raises and "put its money where its mouth is."

The council unanimously voted to reject annual salary increases for itself and Mayor Jim Petitt.

Instead, a $159 annual cost of living adjustment for each council member and a more than $753 annual boost for Petitt, will be diverted to help open the city's public swimming pool.

According to public records, Eminence Council members earn $3,897 annually, while Mayor Petitt earns $18,460. Raises would have represented a four percent inflation increase.

More than $155,000 — with $100,000 coming from the city's water works budget — will also be reallocated to partly help with the pool project.

"We're pretty excited. That was huge," said Manda Gingrich, chairperson of the community action group Making Waves to Open the Pool. "We're impressed they're giving up raises. I do know this swimming pool had everything to do with it. When you work hard you can reprioritize any budget."

Councilwoman Treva Browning remarked Tuesday that the city's budget is too tight to accept raises, especially when council has prioritized a plan to reopen the city's public swimming pool this summer. The pool, just off East Broadway, closed in 2003 after council agreed 5-1 that low attendance and high operational costs were draining the city's budget.

Making Waves, a group committed to re-open the facility, estimates it could cost upwards of $155,000 to repair the pool and its adjoining bathhouse.

The group hopes to raise at least $40,000 in public and private donations. City leaders hope to secure an $80,000 land and water grant, which will also be applied to project costs.

Gingrich said about $8,000 has already been secured this month through donations. The group received an additional $10,000 pledge from a Henry County business and Gingrich said the support keeps pouring in. "This community is so excited about this," she said.

The City of Smithfield gave a large donation at Eminence's Tuesday night council meeting.

"I was amazed to find out they have 150 people and came up with $1,000," Gingrich said.

Smithfield Mayor Kenny Baker said the donation should be seen as a challenge for other Henry County cities to answer the call for a worthy cause.

"This is for the kids," Baker said.

Cook's Pharmacy has donated more than $3,000 to the public pool project.

Eminence officials are also reaching into their wallet, Gingrich said.

Mayor Petitt and his wife have donated $1,000. So have Councilman Richard Thomas and his wife.

"It really says a lot to how much they support the pool," Gingrich said.

Those interested in donating to the public pool project should make checks payable to: City of Eminence Making Waves.

Donations are tax deductible, according to the city auditor.

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.