HUNTSVILLE — At Thursday's meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen here, Huntsville City Recorder Wendy Buttram reiterated a plea for the townspeople to take advantage of the municipal swimming pool and help fundraising efforts at the town's Flat Creek Park.
If the town does not step up to the plate, Buttram warned, both the pool and the playground at the park could be lost.
Meanwhile, two aldermen on the board stepped forward to make the first contributions towards fundraising efforts for the park.
"Whether I've got 15 people in the pool or I've got 50 people in the pool, it costs the same amount of money (to operate it)," Buttram said. "If enough people utilize it, we can bring down our losses. I don't see us ever making a profit on the pool, but we can bring down our losses so that we aren't out even more money when we need to make repairs.
"We just need people to use it before it's not there anymore," Buttram added. "Right now there is not enough people using it."
Huntsville Mayor George W. Potter pointed out that the town's pool is Scott County's last remaining public pool. The Town of Oneida's pool closed permanently several years ago due to its state of disrepair, while the National Park Service closed the Bandy Creek pool this summer due to budget shortages.
In addition to providing a place for day swimming and private pool parties in the evening, the pool provides several part-time jobs for Huntsville teens and young adults who serve as lifeguards during the summer months.
Buttram said the pool currently has a leak that will require repair, while the pool's vacuum system is not working, possibly due to the leak. The town is currently making due with a filtration system that is in need of replacement, with an estimated cost of $32,000.
Potter said the town "doesn't need to lose the pool," adding that it will be kept open as long as possible.
One bright spot for the town is available recreation grant funding. The town can apply for a grant next year to make the necessary repairs to the pool, ensuring that it stays open. However, that application can only be made if current grant money already received by the town is spent.
At stake is a not insignificant amount of funding that the town has committed to a laundry list of repairs at the Flat Creek Park — including new playground equipment, new bleachers for the ball field and new surfacing of the tennis and basketball courts. However, that funding requires a match by the town — money that town officials say just is not there.
The town has turned to the public in a quest for donations, including placing a Paypal option on its website, huntsville-tn.com. So far, those efforts have netted little. After a story in the Independent Herald last month about the need for donations, Buttram said that a single donation was received from an individual who is not a resident of the town but who graciously donated $500 to the park efforts.
Buttram said that donations can be in the form of 50 percent of the cost of a piece of equipment, which can be made in someone's memory or honor.
"Donate a swing set in memory of a lost child," she said. "I have talked to my daughter about donating a piece that's in memory of my dad. We'll put up signs if people are interested in getting involved."
However, if that involvement does not come, the existing playground equipment — aging items that have drawn frowns from insurance representatives — may soon have to be taken down.
"If we can't get people interested and involved, then for insurance purposes we'll just have to take the playground equipment down," Buttram said. "We have a beautiful place out there and we have beautiful plans laid out, we just need some people to show some interest."
Borrowing an old saying, "Put your money where your mouth is," alderman Steven Asberry pledged a $100 donation that he said he would make before the end of the day.
"That park means a lot to me and my kids," he said. "I live on a hillside with poison ivy, so my kids have nowhere else to play."
Asberry's pledge drew a response from alderman Paul Lay, who also vowed to donate $100.
Meanwhile, aderman Jody Newport has been donating his time at the park, helping his father make repairs. Potter pointed out that time was just as good as money, saying that labor can be counted as "in-kind" contributions towards the grant's required match.
Alderman Mark Love was unable to attend Thursday's meeting.
"It's not going to take a whole lot of money," Buttram said. "But it's going to take a little bit."