Commissioners’ retreat is Tuesday at town hall.
by David Leone
WAKE FOREST — On Tuesday, town commissioners will suspend their usual work session to hold a midyear retreat to work out some unresolved issues.
Discussion topics include:
•whether to keep funding repairs for the Holding Park pool or consider closing it,
•ideas for future use of the recently purchased Renaissance Centre, and
•how to choose board members for the Futures Fund, designed to bring new business to Wake Forest through grants and loans.
Though a retreat had not been planned, during the commissioners’ last work session, Mayor Vivian Jones broached those last two subjects as needing further discussion.
“I think we need to discuss the Renaissance Centre more — our ideas for using it and our vision for it,” Jones said.
The center is to be located in the former Tuxedo Junction dance hall at Brooks and Elm streets in downtown Wake Forest. Commissioners purchased the 10,000-square-foot site and an adjoining 3,000-square-foot school for $1.2 million in May. (The school will remain in operation through the end of this year.)
Town leaders have suggested a host of ideas for its use: a civic center, performing arts center and a rental facility for wedding receptions and the like. Nothing has been nailed down.
A grand opening is planned for November.
The Futures Fund is a pot of town money earned several years ago from the sale of land. So far that pot has only been drawn upon for one business, paying for startup costs, including salaries, of the Wireless Research Center located in Heritage. That money has not been repaid.
The mayor’s reason for bringing up the Futures Fund is basic. There is no process for replacing members on that committee, she said.
But the issue that caused a degree of hoopla was Commissioner Margaret Stinnett’s query over whether it was worth it to keep the town pool open.
Her comment came in regards to a request by town staff for commissioners to sign off on a $400,000 installment purchase agreement for renovations to the pool.
What normally might have been a budget line item was bumped up “due to the increased cost of the project along with low interest rates,” town Finance Director Aileen Staples wrote in her request.
Originally built in the 1940s, the pool was last renovated in 1978, Town Manager Mark Williams said.
“Every year it seems to me it’s $40,000 for this, $140,000 for this. Do we need to be in the pool business?” Stinnett asked. “Concrete pools are a thing of the past. I do think we need to have that conversation.”
A number of town commissioners have raised the same issue during town retreats in years past, but a serious discussion of potentially closing the pool has yet to take place.
Stinnett clarified Tuesday that she has long been a swimming instructor and is a strong supporter of municipal pools. She offered that if the existing town pool were to close, it might be worth considering building a new one, possibly an indoor pool, perhaps in conjunction with Wake County Schools.
The retreat will be held on the ground floor at town hall, from 5-9 p.m. or until the discussion is finished. Anyone can attend, but no public comment is permitted.