Tupelo mulls new indoor pool in FY11

TUPELO – The city could break ground next year on a new Olympic-sized aquatic center if a proposed capital improvement plan meets City Council approval.
The plan, a five-year wish list of major municipal purchases and projects, was presented to the council as part of its annual budget preparation.
Fiscal Year 2011 begins Oct. 1, and council members will spend the next several weeks poring over projected expenses and revenues.
If approved, it’ll be the first long-range capital improvements plan the city has had in more than a decade, said Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris.
It includes nearly $46 million in expenditures over the entire period, with nearly $16 million budgeted in the upcoming fiscal year.
The largest projected expense in FY11 is a $7 million aquatic center to replace the city’s aging swimming facility on Joyner Avenue.
“We’re looking at an Olympic-sized pool where we can host regional- to national-type events,” said Don Lewis, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, who has tried for years to cinch funding for such a project.
“It’s a major, major item in what we offer our citizens,” Lewis said. “It becomes another economic generator for us because we’re going to go after more tournaments.”
According to rough, preliminary estimates by the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, a new aquatic facility could generate $2.5 million in direct annual revenue to the city.
Lewis said if the council approves the plan, he’ll begin working on facility designs with an architect and could seek bids for a contractor by Jan. 1.
It’s still unclear where the center would go – either occupying the current pool’s footprint or relocating to Veterans Park.
Lewis said plans still are preliminary, but that the center would boast an indoor pool – with possibly an adjacent therapeutic pool and warm-up pool – as well as an outdoor splash pad. It’d also have a pro shop, restrooms and locker rooms.
Other expenses on the five-year capital improvements plan include matching money for a dog park, three new fire trucks, street overlays, utility upgrades, police vehicles and an indoor basketball facility.
It also includes Major Thoroughfare Program road improvements, which already are funded by a 10-mil property tax.
The city can afford the new projects by issuing bonds that would replace current bond debt now rolling off, Norris said. Residents would not face a tax increase.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal