A proposal to enclose one of the swimming pools at the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center will be placed on the November election ballot, after the Louisa County Board of Supervisors pulled the $1 million item from the fiscal year 2021 budget.
The board voted 4-3 at its April 20 meeting to adopt a capital improvement plan that does not include the pool project. Supervisors Duane Adams, Toni Williams, Fitzgerald Barnes and Eric Purcell (Mineral, Jackson, Patrick Henry and Louisa districts) made up the majority.
The board voted to adopt the $131 million operations and capital improvement budget (without the pool enclosure) and to keep tax rates at their current levels.
Among the capital projects that will be included in the budget is the Lake Anna Rescue Station on New Bridge Road. Jane Gallagher, a member of the Foundation for Lake Anna Emergency Services, said after the vote that her group will now start to raise its share of the project’s funds. Residents have committed to raise one-eighth of the estimated $800,000 expense.
For voters to decide whether to fund the pool enclosure, a request for a referendum must be approved by a Louisa Circuit Court judge within 81 days of the election date, according to Louisa County Registrar Cris Watkins.
“We suffered a major blow last night,” the Friends of Louisa County Aquatics wrote on their Facebook page. “What will be proposed in the referendum is unclear. What is clear is it will now be up to Louisa County voters to say yes to a year-round pool.”
Some board members, including Barnes, have said they do not support the $1 million enclosure of the pool because it will not provide enough room for audiences during high school swim meets. Barnes wanted the board to consider a new, free-standing pool building that would cost closer to $4 million.
The board’s decision to remove the pool project from the budget was not necessarily related to worries about a decline in tax revenue due to the coronavirus. Some members have shown strong support for enclosing the pool for year-round use, pointing to the health benefits for residents. But others question whether it should be a priority.
“It seems like a luxury, given the economic times we’re in,” said Williams, who made the motion to remove the enclosure from the budget. Adams added that he thought the pool project would be “nice,” but was not as important as building the new rescue station or an addition to Jouett Elementary School.
The board previously indicated it was unlikely to appropriate money for the pool enclosure when it meets on May 4. The rescue station will probably not receive money yet, either, although the supervisors can decide to move forward with station construction if fiscal conditions improve during the next year.
Supervisor Willie Gentry (Cuckoo District) made a strong stand in favor of keeping the pool enclosure in the budget.
“It’s very much a health and welfare issue,” he said.
He said it’s “a major mistake” to focus on one item to pull out of the budget right before its adoption. Moreover, he said, the board that approved the Betty J. Queen Center in the early 2000s intended to enclose the pool, although that part of the work was not funded.
“This is not the same board that approved it back then,” responded Williams.