Jackson County voters weigh in on new indoor pool complex

The concept would place a new aquatics facility to the north of the existing Cullowhee Recreation Center. Clark Nexser rendering.

Jackson County voters will be able to weigh in on a $20 million project to build an indoor pool complex in the Cullowhee Recreation Center on their ballot this November. This vote comes months after County commissioners voted in July to issue the bond for this project. A new indoor swimming pool complex in Cullowhee would allow young and old, residents and students of nearby schools, all to be able to use the new pool and provide an attractive new feature to Jackson County  

Several individuals came forward after the meeting in July with differing opinions about whether or not the pool should be built. For one, to pay the $20 million debt and fund operations, commissioners theorize that adding about 2.26 cents per $100 to the county’s existing tax rate of 38 cents per $100 will cover the cost. In addition to the $20 million to build the pool, the new complex will have an annual operating cost estimated at $612,000. Before ground on this project has even broken, Jackson County has spent about $48,000 on design, geotechnical and legal work. Additionally, about $5,000 to $10,000 is planned to be spent on marketing materials and to educate voters about the choice appearing on the November Ballot 

The ballot question regarding the pool will read as follows:  

“Shall the order authorizing Jackson County general obligation bonds in the maximum amount of $20,000 plus interest to pay capital costs of providing indoor pool facilities and paying related costs, and providing the additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds, as adopted by the County’s Board of Commissioners on July 10, 2020, be approved?”  

Sloan Despeaux, who works at Western Carolina University and teaches aquatics classes, presented to the Sylva town board on September 24, some of the designs for the new pool complex. Renderings of the designs for the pool were presented to the Sylva board by Despeaux and included spaces in the complex such as a 31,000-square-foot addition to the existing recreation center as well as a six-lane competition pool and a leisure pool with a splash pad. The new facility would also house locker rooms, a competition seating deck, party room spaces and offices.  

Despeaux also notes one more possible reason the pool is necessary as being that Jackson County is losing possible additional revenue as residents drive to surrounding counties to use their facilities. They spend money in those other counties that they could be spending in Jackson County.  

If the voting proves to be in favor of the new pool at the conclusion of the November 3 general election, then commissioners will have the ability to move forward with the project and borrow the money to begin construction. Higher property tax rates could be enacted as early as July 1, 2021.