Mayor Noel Foster was stumping for votes at a Tuesday luncheon meeting of the White Hall Chamber of Commerce, encouraging the city hall crowd to mark ballots in support of a “no-tax bond issue” in a May 14 special election.
The first-term mayor pointed out that the bond issue is needed to allow construction to start on a proposed community center and adjacent aquatic park at the intersection of Dollarway and Hoadley roads. The $8 million project has been in the making for several years.
If the bond issue is approved, the community center will be opening in about a year and the aquatic park will then debut within a couple of months. The project is being funded with collections from an advertising and promotion tax that is already being assessed. Foster said tax revenues will stand at approximately $4 million when construction starts soon after the anticipated endorsement of the bond issue. Continuing income from the tax will be pledged to satisfy the bond debt.
White Hall residents participated in a determination of what features should be included at the community center. The aquatic park was the most repeated desire, Foster said.
The mayor said he and aldermen had visited a number of other community centers and water parks across the state to gather ideas on what might work best here. If voters approve the bond issue, the aquatic park could help White Hall to “showcase” itself, he said. He sought to ease any concerns that might exist with the aquatic facility, which will have several areas for young adults and seniors but also offer assorted attractions to children and teenagers.
“We’ll have a strict code of conduct,” assured the mayor, who added that he and the council members had found in their visits to other water parks that the successful ones had security measures ensuring persons “behaved well” so everyone could enjoy and feel safe at the facilities.
He said the city would likely advertise the aquatic park “all the way to Monticello” to attract users. Exact daily fees haven’t been fixed yet.
“The more features you have, the more people you’ll bring in,” he said. “Just a pool by itself won’t be enough.”
Plans for White Hall’s water park include slides, a wading pool and a kids’ splash area.
“I won’t say we’ll make money, but I suspect we’ll have a great time,” the mayor quipped, drawing laughter from an audience of about 75. “Seriously, we look to at least break even but naturally want to make some money.”
Foster anticipates that when the water park functions during the summer months, persons from throughout the area will come to White Hall to enjoy the facility.
“That’s families coming here to spend a day, and they’ll be buying food and gasoline and spending money for other purposes while they’re here,” he said. “That’s going to help our local merchants and increase our tax base.”
He estimates that the aquatic park will create employment opportunities for up to 60 youths each summer.
“We’ll be looking to staff it with local kids,” he said.
The community center — designed not to “interfere” with existing businesses here in regard to services — will be open year-round. During the fall, winter and spring, it will probably need a a workforce of no more than three persons, Foster figures.
“And we’ll be looking at utilizing volunteers in those spots,” he said. “White Hall’s a volunteer community, so we expect to have a lot of people ready to pitch in and help.”
He said the community center will charge a “meager” membership fee of “around $50 to $60 a year,” with discounts for local residents.
“Don’t forget to vote on May 14,” Foster stressed, “and if you don’t live here but know someone who does, call them and remind them to vote.”