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Picking what is important

We have finally gotten to March and I am happy to be here. Not only are we headed into NCAA tournament time, but even if it snows now — and goodness knows we do need the moisture — whatever we get will not last long. Well, perhaps. I love Kansas!

Just to get you into the mood for summer and all the joy it brings, I would like to bring you up to date on The State of the Swimming Pool. This very topic was discussed Monday night in our city council meeting. Our pool was built in the early 1960s — a joint effort, as I understand, by Peabody Chamber of Commerce and the city, as well as a couple of other community-minded groups like Kiwanis and various women’s clubs. Jack Walker’s name is often associated with stories of how the pool came to be. He was a local merchant who spear-headed the drive to build it and put Peabody on the county map as a community with an interest in its youngsters.

I am telling you this for a reason. Swimming pools and parks are a notorious drain on city budgets. They provide amenities that generally cannot be measured dollar-for-dollar and fall into that curious category known as ‘quality of life’ issues. Quality of life issues are parks and green spaces, museums that measure our history, band shells and statues we maintain, and the signs that proclaim our great moments or famous citizens. Somewhere in there are swimming pools and recreation programs that keep our children fit, active, and engaged.

Peabody City Council had a report Monday evening that the new baby pool liner, installed a little more than a year ago, has failed. While not a life-threatening situation, openings have developed in the lining that could trap a child’s hand or foot — a potential hazard. The solution? The pool needs yet another liner. The guarantee from the company that installed it, long trusted and appreciated by our city council, can apparently no longer be trusted. Attempts to contact them, hoping to make them honor the guarantee on their work, have gone unanswered. They simply have vanished.

A bid from another company for a baby pool liner replacement came in at more than a whopping $8,000 dollars. Guess what line item in the city budget does not accommodate that amount for repairs? You guessed it — the pool budget. Peabody-Burns Recreation Commission has bailed the city out on pool issues a time or two because the pool serves P-B Super Swimmers swim team and Burns students are bused to Peabody to swim during summer vacation. However, the rec commission’s budget for this year is already encumbered with money going to other projects.

There may be a way to do a ‘patch’ job on the baby pool. Public Works Director Ronnie Harms agreed to do some research on temporary repair and recovery of aging pool surfaces. Your city council members hope to buy some time so they can work a permanent solution into the budget for another year. Yes, it is only the baby pool, but it is an important first step in teaching children to embrace their surroundings and challenges. Our kids deserve this.

So be careful how you spread this news. No one is trying to close the pool. The city council is not trying do away with our swim team. And here is a thought – how about making a donation to keep our community swimming pool viable? No, it is not an aquatic center like Marion and Hillsboro have, but it is ours and it has served us well for decades. When it is gone, we surely will miss it. Support local giving. Whatever you donate, large amount or small, is an investment in your community. If we all kick in a little, we can do great things.

— susan marshall

Last modified March 3, 2016

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