Mount Airy seeks OK for pool at Watkins Park SOUTHWEST--Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield

December 18, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

The weather outside may be frightful, but that hasn't stopped some Mount Airy swimmers from thinking of summer and visions of a community pool.

Town officials are pressing the Carroll County commissioners to endorse the county-owned Watkins Park as the site for a town pool. The county, however, plans to build a school at the 44-acre park off Route 27, south of Watersville Road.

"We have concerns about the amount of space there," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said. "We don't think there would be enough room for both a school and a pool. From our standpoint, it just doesn't seem to be feasible."

The Carroll commissioners will discuss the pool further with the Town Council and the Frederick County commissioners when the three groups meet Jan. 7, 1993, to discuss Mount Airy issues. The town straddles the Frederick-Carroll county line.

Although Mount Airy is Carroll's second-largest municipality, it has no pool. Residents have access to a private pool through the Ridge Swim Club, but there is a two-year waiting list for membership.

Much larger Westminster has a public pool. So do smaller towns such as Manchester, Hampstead and Taneytown. Sykesville's recreation and parks committee has proposed building a community pool there, but lack of money has thwarted the effort so far.

Mount Airy officials have been looking for a pool site for years.

Proposals to build on other sites fell through. A school was built on a site under consideration in Frederick County, and town officials backed off a plan for a pool near the Twin Ridge development after residents objected to a zoning change. In that case, a developer offered to build a pool if the town would rezone some land to allow town houses.

"We've had a couple of near misses," said Councilman David Pyatt, who oversees parks and recreation facilities. "Since I started on the council in 1988, a swimming pool has been one of our main objectives."

More than a year ago, the parks committee looked at six sites but decided Watkins Park was the best. Mr. Pyatt said that the town has limited land for a pool. He said that he believes both a school and a pool could be built at the park, which now has tennis courts, ball fields, soccer fields and picnic facilities.

The town has received a $14,000 state grant to design a pool, Mr. Pyatt said. But because the proposed site is on county property, the town must have the commissioners' endorsement before proceeding.

Mr. Pyatt estimates the cost of building a pool at at least $500,000. Funding proposals, such as bonds, have been considered. It is likely that the construction of a pool would mean an increase in taxes of some sort, he said.

"I'm sure it's going to be controversial," he said. "We'll have to go through public hearings."

The biggest hurdle now, however, may be persuading the commissioners.

"We would gladly donate the land if it didn't conflict with a more important aspect -- which is building a school there," Mr. Lippy said. "I'm not against the pool. I'm in favor of helping Mount Airy as much as possible."

For town officials, Watkins Park remains the most attractive site. It is accessible to Route 27 and the pool would serve the 20,000 to 30,000 people who live in the surrounding area as well as Mount Airy's nearly 4,000 residents, Mr. Pyatt said.

"A lot of people really want a swimming pool," he said. "It's something the whole community can use. But it's not something that is going to happen real quick.

"It's better to do it right. Once it's there, everybody will like it."

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