A birthday celebration—a common occurrence at the Williams Aquatic Center—marked its last day for the season. Despite the pleas of a crowd overflowing the council chambers at the meeting on January 28th, Williams intends to proceed with the closing of the pool for the season. It seems, though, that they have decided not to drain the pool until next Friday.
Andrew Hamby voted against the recent round of budget cuts in general. His concern was not only with the pool but laying off two more employees from the bare-boned staff. When he suggested that other alternatives, such as cuts in the Golf Course budget, were not considered, another council man was alleged to remark that was not going to happen.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Moore had the city clerk review the rules concerning public participation on non-agenda items. According to the open-meeting law, the council is prevented from voting on non-agenda items. That made some of the residents wonder how they voted on the item on the 19th since it was not on the agenda.
“We sat here in this council room for the last several months laboring over what we are going to do to make our ends meet,” Mayor Moore commented. “We’ve had to lay people off and cut other areas. We’re down now to where we don’t even know—like Miss [Lucy] Mason said—we’re going to get to the point where we have to look pretty seriously at how we’re going to continue to function at the level we got. The reason I say that is let’s have respect for the council. We have respect for you. We don’t like closing the pool either. Some of our member use that pool quite a bit.”
City Finance Director, Joe Duffy, explained that two-years of failing sales taxes, augmented by a drastic drop in sales tax revenues since last February, caused drastic cuts to be made even though they began trimming two-years ago. Duffy said that the budget had dropped $300,000 last fiscal year and is projected to drop the same amount by the end of this fiscal year which ends June 30. Duffy said that they have reduced travel, uniform allowances and other areas. He pointed out that the Dogtown Well pump needs replacing but will not be replaced until absolutely necessary. The pool costs, according to Duffy, are around $20,000 a month. With cuts, they were able to reduce it to $18,000 a month.
One resident, Molly, suggested a committee of citizens to assist the council in reviewing the budget to see other areas where adjustments could be made. She said that she compared the green fees at our golf course compared to others and claimed that ours were substantially lower that other golf courses in the state. She said that she and her husband ran a pool for the Boy Scouts of America so she understood the cost. However, starting it back up—especially after draining it—might run into excessive start-up costs.
Robert O’Neil—a grandfather who moved to the area and purchased because he thought his grandkids would enjoy the area—suggested expanding it with some exercise equipment and sauna and charging a monthly fee so people would not have to travel to Flagstaff to the health club.
Much of the concern, of course, centered around providing safe alternatives for youth to drug and alcohol abuse.