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Manatee officials recommend $4.5 million for new pool

John Marble Park is expected to receive funding in Manatee County’s new budget cycle to operate year round, but the county has many more plans for the park in the future as shown in these drawings.
John Marble Park is expected to receive funding in Manatee County’s new budget cycle to operate year round, but the county has many more plans for the park in the future as shown in these drawings.

A new swimming pool north of the Manatee River, and turning the pool at John Marble Park into a year-round operation, were a focus Thursday of a Manatee County Commission review of a 5-year capital improvements program.

County staff is recommending $147,000 in this coming year’s budget to purchase heaters and deck lighting at the Marble Park pool. If ultimately approved by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners in September, work could begin any time after Oct. 1.

Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said once complete, “The pool will be able to accommodate many swimming clubs, high school teams and recreation. But we have more improvements planned. The gym at the park is used by about 220 kids and that gym is seeing its age.”

Like many things in the county parks and recreational system, much will depend on the outcome of a recently approved master parks plan study. While the 30-year-old facility at John Marble Park needs attention, Hunsicker said the county is prepared to move forward after the master plan is complete to replace the gym and construct a new splash park.

“That will all be discussed in the master plan,” he said.

North County pool

The plan also will eventually name the location north of the Manatee River for a new $4.5 million pool tentatively being called the North County pool.

Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said the county would begin looking at acquiring land for its location some time next year once the master plan is completed.

“Everything will start with the receipt of the master plan, which will lead to a discussion of a variety of things up to and including the location,” said Hunzeker. “The location has not been determined at this time.”

Tentatively, the county is budgeting $500,000 in 2018 for design, $2 million in 2019 for land acquisition and start of construction and $1.5 million in 2020 for final construction.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore raised the same concern she has had all along, noting she didn’t see anything in the budget pertaining to staffing the new pool. Hunzeker said those funds would come from the operating budget.

“By the time we get through construction, we should have sufficient money to fund the staff by 2020,” he said.

Overall, parks and recreation is slated to receive more than $2.7 million in 2017. Most funding is going toward ongoing Robinson Preserve expansion and restoration. Some planned improvements include a trail connecting Robinson Preserve to Perico Preserve and eventually Neal Preserve to the south.

However, Hunzeker noted a lot of the impact fees that pay for park improvements are being held back until the master plan is completed.

Commissioners requested a future workshop on prioritizing trails for the county since several different agencies have their own.

Commissioner Betsy Benac said it’s confusing.

“It would be nice to have an understanding what our trail priority is when we are talking about funding it,” she said.

Hunsicker agreed.

“Trails have different meanings to different people,” Hunsicker said. “It’s a good opportunity to talk about what trails mean and the funding opportunities for them when the master plan comes forward.”

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