Park Board discusses pool

Murray City Councilman Johnny Bohannon sits at the head of the table in a conference room at Murray City Hall Thursday afternoon as he leads a meeting of the City of Murray's temporary park committee. Bohannon was chosen by Mayor Bob Rogers to chair the committee, which was formed at last week's city council meeting to make park-related decisions after the city recently took control of the park system.

MURRAY – Murray City Administrator Jim Osborne said at the first meeting of the city’s temporary park committee Thursday that the administration’s goal is to repair and reopen the Central Park swimming pool sometime next summer.

Members of both the Murray City Council and Calloway County Fiscal Court recently voted to turn control of the park system – previously known as Murray-Calloway County Parks and Recreation – over to the city. At last week’s city council meeting, Mayor Bob Rogers appointed several council members to a temporary park committee to oversee important financial decisions for the parks in the coming months. The council unanimously approved the establishment of the committee and the mayor’s selection of members, with Councilman Johnny Bohannon serving as chair.

At its first meeting, the committee discussed several important issues, including plans for the swimming pool and new lights for the soccer fields, as well as a naming rights policy. The pool has been closed since the fall of 2019, and Osborne said Rogers wants it reopened again before the end of summer 2022.

“Our goal is to have the pool open next summer,” Osborne explained after the meeting concluded. “Now, some have said Memorial Day, but our goal is have the pool ready to open next summer. That may be later than Memorial Day, but our goal that we’re shooting for is Memorial Day. Of course, there are a lot of factors that play into that, but it is a priority, and our goal on the soccer lights is to have them up by March 1.”

Osborne said the city is in preliminary talks with some possible donors interested in contributing to park projects, though the administration is not ready to announce anything yet. He said that while much is left to be determined about how the pool repairs will be funded, the city plans to move as quickly as it can to meet its opening goal.

“We’re going to move forward while we’re gathering donations,” Osborne said. “We’re going to continue to move forward because of the timeline. We’ve got to get started on it. We’ll have to see what we come in with (on donations and other funding means), but unquestionably, the goal is we’re going to get the pool open next summer if we can.

“There would be a variety of ways you could get it (funded). You could set up a fund, you could do bonds, and a local loan is also possible. There are multiple ways it could be done, but we’d like to see what (donations) we get first. Any decision on that funding would, of course, need to be approved by the city council.”

Park Aquatics Director Mike Sykes was present at the meeting, and Bohannon thanked him and his staff for their work on getting the pool ready for inspection. Bohannon said someone is coming from Texas soon to give the city a quote on pool repairs. Several other companies have also looked at the pool in the last couple of years.

“We’re trying to get as many quotes as we can,” Osborne said.

The other two top priorities for Central Park are installing lighting for the first time at the soccer fields and repairing the baseball field lights, Osborne said. He said city staff had met with several companies about the soccer field lights, and the specifications will be put out next week before the temporary committee is eventually asked to approve bids. Marisa Stewart, special projects coordinator for the City of Murray, said a site visit for prospective bidders is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 8, and bids are due Oct. 21.

“We’re going to require them to be completed by March 1 so that the soccer season can kick off,” Osborne said.

“The reason the soccer lights are important is that the struggle is … soccer is huge in the fall as well (as spring),” said Councilman and committee member Jeremy Bell. “You go down there and you want to have practice there at 5 o’clock; that’s great, but by 5:15 or 5:20, you’re done. Having lights down there is absolutely important.”

The committee also approved a naming rights policy for future potential donors. Individuals or businesses can purchase 30 years of naming rights for a particular facility for $250,000; 25 years is $200,000 to $249,000; 20 years is $150,000 to $199,000; 15 years is $100,000 to $149,000; 10 years is $50,000 to $99,000; and five years is $25,000 to $49,000. Councilwoman and committee member Rose Ross Elder noted that the city could change those dollar figures years down the line to adjust for inflation.

Councilwoman and committee member Linda Cherry said the Leadership Murray program had approached the parks’ ambassador program, so she needed some clarification on how that program would work now that the city has taken control of the park system. While the park system can’t be a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the ambassador program is, and Osborne said the ambassadors are considered an LLC that can act independently on behalf of the parks. While the park committee and city council would have to approve projects, the ambassadors can raise money and do what they want without approval from any other entity, he said.

In his director’s report, Parks Director Ryan Yates said PeteFest, which is organized by Andrew O’Rourke in honor of his late brother Peter, will be Saturday, Oct. 9. The event includes a skate competition and free concert.

Yates said Lake Chem and Journey Church will be sponsoring a Harvest Festival at Central Park on Oct. 16. He said it is a free event with pumpkin painting, music and an outdoor movie showing. The Trail of Treats will again be a drive-through event this year, and Yates said it will be held from 4:30-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.