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No more frog pond - Council approves resolution to open Eminence pool

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

In front of a standing-room-only crowd Monday night, Eminence City Council unanimously passed a resolution to "make every reasonable effort" to reopen the city's swimming pool by June 2008. The crowd erupted in cheers and hoots after the vote.

Councilman Shawn Bright said it is a big goal. "I just want to reiterate that June 1 is a quick date. ... We're four months and 17 days away from (June 1). We're 20 weeks away. We're 138 days away," he said. "That is a quick date; let's try to make that goal if we can."

Roughly a half-dozen residents spoke in favor of the resolution at the beginning of the meeting, and several more stood or sat in the council room holding signs stating their support for reopening the pool, sometimes referred to by residents as the frog pond.

Janice Vanlandingham said the pool was just one reason she and her family moved to Eminence from Atlanta.

"I'm here tonight to let you know that my family, my friends and my neighbors strongly support the opening of this pool," she said. Vanlandingham added that when the family moved to Eminence, they were told the pool could be opened within a year or two. "We found out that wasn't going to happen."

Eminence Independent Schools Board of Education member Brenda Chism said while she liked certain changes in the city, she understands the council had a difficult decision.

"I know you're facing another difficult decision ... look at your budgets (and) what's important," she said. "To me, the bottom line? Your children, our children, are what's important."

Chism admitted that athletics isn't a money-making venture for EIS, but the district maintains sports programs because of their value for the children.

"We lose money on our athletics, but we have them anyway because we know how important they are," she said.

Manda Gingrich, chairperson of Making Waves, the community group pushing to get the pool reopened, also addressed the council.

"Making Waves was created because our mayor asked me to get involved and drum up some community support ... (and conduct) fund-raising," she said. "We found out fund-raising wasn't the first step."

Gingrich said two community meetings about the pool drew more than 100 residents. During the first meeting, she said, there was a pledge of $5,000. The committee already has, in hand, more than $500 and "twelve difference contractors" who have pledged their services for the project, she said.

"The Making Waves Committee is committed to raising $30,000 toward opening this pool," she said, adding that most of work could be donated. "We've been through this budget, torn this budget apart," she said, adding that the budget could be reprioritized.

"Sometimes you have to make hard choices. Is opening the pool good for this community? Obviously, these kids have no recreation during the summer time," Gingrich said. Opening the pool "will eliminate the boredom a lot of them have."

Gingrich then asked council to consider appointing a residents' group to oversee the project.

Councilman Danny Meadows made the motion to approve the resolution. The council also created a pool commission, which will include council member Richard Thomas, Gingrich and Vanlandingham.

In other businesses, the council:

• approved Mayor Jim Pettit's recommendation to ask the CARE Team to write the grant for the pool. Pettit said the CARE Team's Nellie Druin agreed to write the grant, if the city would pay the CARE Team $1,500, which "would be donated strictly to kids" projects the CARE Team does." The payment, he said, would only take place if the city receives the grant.

• went into closed session to discuss personnel with the possibility of disciplinary action. Immediately after the closed session, Drane Stephens announced he was withdrawing his letter of resignation from council.

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