The motion, made by Councilwoman Suetta Scarbrough on a second by Carol Cowen, passed unanimously at this evening’s meeting.
The budget amendment approved by council ends some nine months of debate on the matter. The money to fund the repairs will be pulled from the city’s unassigned fund balance.
Cowen, in casting the second to Scarbrough’s motion, said, “I’m glad to be asked to second it.”
Councilman Wayne Smith, who throughout months of discussions on the matter debated Carl Ferebee on funding the repairs, said during discussion before the vote, “I thank the citizens of the Chaloner area for your patience. There was a lot of hard work done to be able to get the project done. I was never against the pool. I was against the funding.”
For Ferebee, who represents many of the people in the community, the victory was a result of a long fight. “I have a lot of people to thank,” he said during discussion. “I’d like to thank city council for reconsidering. I’d like to thank the citizens for all their support and all they have done. It’s been a long road. I knew council would come through. We have worked hard to make this happen.”
Ferebee said the pool is a vital part of life in the community. “It serves many families. It’s a place where people can feel safe.”
Relating a baptism story shared with him, the councilman said, “It was also a place somebody first walked with Christ. I would like to thank the mayor. There have been so many who have been for this project.”
Mayor Emery Doughtie also thanked council “for a lot of hard work. I’m glad we can make this happen.”
Kaileb Harrison, a 10-year-old who spoke at council’s last meeting and again tonight, said he was pleased. “Yes, a lot.”
In his talk to council before the vote to approve the repairs, Harrison said, “My grandma and grandpa swam at this pool. My mother and I did as well. I would like to go down in history as someone that helped keep this pool open. Hopefully some day I can tell my kids how with the help of this community, we made a difference.”
Following his speech Ferebee presented him a city pin. Doughtie had sent him a letter after his first appearance last month.
Margaret Clark, who has been following the debate, said, “We’re just so happy that city council recommended to fix the pool. God is good all the time.”
The decision to repair the pool comes as the city has entered into negotiations with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch to refinance its debt on the theater.
The decision to move forward with the repairs, Smith said following the meeting, is “based on the funds we anticipate saving on theater financing.”
Parks and Recreation Director John Simeon said the first step in the process will be to get requests for proposals for the project.
Halifax County Board of Commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant, who has twice encouraged council to move forward with the repairs, said, “Tonight was a great night. It shows working together really works. I’m really happy they did the right thing.”
City Manager Joseph Scherer confirmed the refinancing negotiations were a part of the decision to move forward with the pool repairs. He will also look at possible budget adjustments in next fiscal year’s plan to replace the funds taken from the unassigned fund balance. The possible savings from the theater negotiations, he said, “May assist in replacing the funds.”
Ferebee also said the negotiations on theater debt played a part. “Along with this, there was a lot of support.”
He said he hopes the pool can reopen by summer.