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Could a city pool be the answer to teen crime in Brookhaven?

A group of residents are interested in building a city pool or a community center for Brookhaven.

Seven individuals addressed the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen Tuesday night at a public hearing for the city’s proposed $12 million budget.

Several addressed the board, asking that more tax money be put aside toward recreational activities for the youth of Brookhaven.

The board has had several public work sessions throughout the month of August to determine where taxpayers’ money will be spent.

Director of Rising Stars for Christ, Falana McDaniel, said that she believes a swimming pool or a recreational facility for the youth of Brookhaven would help keep crime rates down.

She asked the board what their goals are for the budget and if there were any plans to add a community center to the list. 

“We’ve got needs and wants,” said Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice. “Our goal is just like any household would be, you’ve got a certain amount of money that you can spend and then you have to figure out where you need to spend it. You’ve got to determine what’s priority, what’s needed and you have to look at the whole city to see what’s needed.”

Grice said police, fire, and water and sewer departments are their top priority for the city.

“These are the essentials and they have to be prioritized first. We all have wants, but you only have a certain amount of money to spend on these things and we don’t want to raise taxes on anyone,” Grice said. “You can go out and raise taxes and get anything you want, but we’re trying not to do that.”

There is currently $25,000 in the budget to build a new park in Ward 1.

Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore asked the board to consider adding an additional $25,000 for a new park in his ward and $50,000 to go toward building a community center.

He did not specify where it would be located. The board will consider Moore’s $75,000 request, but to accommodate him, the city would have to cut expenses elsewhere.

“I’ve lived in Brookhaven all of my life. Our children don’t have anything to do,” said Jacqueline Harris, a resident who addressed the board. “I’m all about the community and us coming together. I know there’s a budget and perspectives have to be put in order, but I think it would be helpful to have a place where kids can stay occupied.”

The board will have another budget work session today at 5:30 p.m. in the city board room at the Lincoln County Government Complex. They will vote on the budget Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

“Our responsibility is to all the taxpayers of Brookhaven to operate and provide essential city services in the most cost effective manner possible and prepare for the future with funds available,” said Mayor Joe Cox. “A budget is nothing but a roadway to determine what your expenditures would be and you have to try to live within the budget to provide these services. The job of the city and us as leaders is to provide the essential city services such as water, sewer, fire, police, city street, etc…”

Aldermen dived into this pool discussion back in 2015.

Roy Smith said he and others had petitioned the board on several occasions to build a recreation facility with a swimming pool. He said the issue had been a source of disagreement for more than 20 years, since Brookhaven’s public pools closed. The expensive repairs at least one pool needed led to the pools, which were opened around the ‘60s, being closed.

“Having a pool would drastically improve the quality of life for everyone here in Brookhaven,” he said at the August 2015 meeting.

In 2015, the city’s rec department talked to city managers in Indianola and Cleveland, sister cities to Brookhaven similar in size and demographics. The minimum cost for a pool that would work for a city Brookhaven’s size would be $500,000 for the pool only. There would also be additional cost for engineers and architects and also construction of showers, a pool house and dressing rooms. Someone would also need to be hired to monitor the pool and dressing room areas.

The other city’s either fund their pools through a food tax or $1 per person fee, but that barely covers the cost. Maintenance and liability insurance should also be factored into the cost.

The $500,000 was for an outdoor pool, not an entire recreation facility, and the rec department estimated the yearly cost to operate it would be around $100,000.

The board agreed at the August 2015 meeting to open a line item under the recreation department/parks budget for $25,000 with the idea of seeking a feasibility study.