posted on July 27, 2011 21:58
The LeRoy pool debate took a turn for the worse tonight, as the Village Board and pool supporters are no closer to a deal to save the swimming hole.
The meeting began with high hopes. Just two days ago, the Board and Village Mayor Ged Brady had submitted a plan to a private group of pool supporters, proposing that the Village sell them the pool for one dollar. Under the terms of the deal, the Village would contribute $11,000 a year for operations, but would effectively take its hand out of the pool's day-to-day.
Mayor Brady had gone so far as to assume his deal would work, drafting a resolution to go ahead and sell the pool. But at tonight's Village Board meeting, the volunteer group said that's not good enough.
"I don't think any of us (volunteers) want to take over. That was not our purpose," said group leader and former county legislator Mike Welsh. His group's proposal for several weeks has been to raise several thousand dollars, and complete the state-required pool safety repairs on donated volunteer labor. Then, they planned to hand the pool back to the village for operations.
"We are certainly not going to accept (the Village's deal), because this is not practical," Welsh firmly said. "It's not even reasonable!"
But according to Village Trustees, their hands are tied as far as accepting any gifts of fundraising or labor. Under state law, they say the Village must bid the pool repairs out to private contractors, and they have to pay prevailing wage to any workers on the project. Resident Tom Spodaro suggested that the private group could bid themselves for the job, at the cost of one dollar. But Trustees said it doesn't work that way.
That's when Mike Welsh stood up, angry.
"You can have volunteers work," he said. "Look, if you want to get it done, you can. If you want to hide behind prevailing wages, you can." But he pointed out that the Board has not allowed Village employees to make the required repairs on Village payroll.
"So you've eliminated prevailing wages, in my opinion," Welsh said. "All I'm asking is...deal in good faith with us! We're ready to act!"
There was some resulting resentment from the Board. Trustee Dick O'Shea said he was taken aback at being accused of "hiding." And he expressed disbelief that the volunteer group didn't consider a one dollar price-tag an acceptable deal.
"You are not the only people that we represent," he pointed out. "If you take a look at this 2-percent property tax cap from the state...let's suppose 3 or 4 years down the line, we're hit with a major repair. We'd be jammed into a corner."
Longtime resident Patricia Lapp echoed those sentiments, as the lone pool detractor in attendance. "We have some village streets that are like driving on wooden planks," she said. "I've taken to avoiding them. I would ask the Village to really consider the infrastructure" before an underused pool, she said.
But local contractor Tom McGinnis said there would be no long-term repairs to consider after the group is done. "What's already been done...and what we're proposing to do, should make that pool last 15 or 20 years without anything more than general maintenance," he said. And he noted that the pool had lasted 40 years before it fell into its current state.
"That's a pretty good guarantee," he said.
Following public comment, the Village Board voted 4-1 to sell the pool anyway. But that won't be the end result of tonight's actions. Trustee Jennifer Keys moved to create a committee to sift through the legal issues regarding prevailing wage and contract bids. Her motion passed and will be seen through in the next two weeks.
In the meantime, Trustee Greg Rogers offered some peacekeeping words.
"By your efforts, we've made a lot of progress," he told the volunteer group. "We've come real close. We have to find some median ground here.
"If this is just a legal matter of how we can get it done...let's figure how to do it legally, and get it done."