GAFFNEY, SC (WSPA) – The site of an empty, abandoned pool in Gaffney is now being filled with hope.
“As a little girl growing up here in Gaffney, that’s where I learned to swim,” recalled Gaffney City Council member Monita Dawkins. “Every summer I was there.”
It’s the childhood memories she wants other young Gaffney residents to experience too since the Irene Pool closed in 2011.
“When I was out campaigning, one of the concerns that we don’t have anything here for our children,” Dawkins said.
Mayor Henry Jolly says the pool has been talked about for years.
“I’ve been the mayor for 19 years and it’s been going on pretty much my entire administration,” Jolly said. “The city owned the pool but it was under the auspices of the recreation district. and I don’t know what the real reason is but they abandoned it and we couldn’t afford to operate it.”
A Cherokee County veterans group got council’s approval to build a splash pad on the site last year but those plans didn’t stay afloat.
“We have voted on a lot of other issues here in Gaffney,” said Dawkins. “We still have a long way to go but it’s time we focus back on the community for our children.”
Council approved a recommendation from the Building and Grounds Committee to engage the firm Seamon Whiteside and Associate to get initial plans and specifics for building a new pool and splash pad.
City leaders say right now the cost is between 1.1 and 1.5 million.
“We have $500,000 in the budget now,” said the mayor, referring to hospitality tax funds. “We have a commitment from the county for $500,000.”
Council voted 6 to 1 to start drawing the plans for a pool 50 feet x 100 feet and 4 to 5 feet at its deepest point.
City leaders said they will also work to attain other funding sources, like the board of public works.
“If you don’t have a friend with the pool or a pool in your backyard then there’s nowhere for the children to go and I think it’s very important that children learn how to swim,” Dawkins said. “It’s just important that we get that back in our community – some activities for our children.”
Councilman billy love was the one who voted against the measure Monday night.
He says he has concerns about the cost to actually operate the pool once it’s finished, and if they’re going to need lifeguards or other staffing.
Council also voted to approve the first reading of a balanced budget – with no tax increase – for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.