City to discuss taking a dip on new pool

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SARASOTA COUNTY - North Port city commissioners are talking about the future of a city pool.

"We have petitions. I mean we really have petitions." North Port resident Stephen Hudek has a passion for swimming; his kids, too. Recently he's been busy collecting signatures to make sure city leaders know many want a place to relax and compete -- more than 2,000 of them so far. "Just somewhere the kids can go to cool off. Some place for adults to have water aerobics classes. Of course for the swim teams. The next Michael Phelps could come from North Port. Who knows?"

Right now the swim teams in the largest city in the county have to go elsewhere, in a city that has 10 schools and more than 10,000 children. "I think it is crazy that they don't have one already. If you go to any neighboring city...Punta Gorda, Englewood...they have multiple pools and we don't have anything."

North Port does actually have something. The YMCA currently runs the city's 54-year-old pool. "It is not regulation size. You can't hold a swim meet there. It won't work for what we need. It's not big enough for the amount of children that we have."

A new one could be located near the Morgan Family Community Center. The city could decide on a 25 or 50 meter size. Nearly four million dollars has already been set aside for a pool and possibly other aquatic amenities.

The concern is operating it at hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Both the city and the county currently spend more than $150,000 a year to maintain the older pool at the "Y". The contract is set to expire soon. Hudek says a new one could pay for itself. "These parents go to these meets. They last all weekend. They need hotels to stay in, places to eat. This would be a huge impact for the economics of North Port."

Some city leaders claim it's likely taxes would need to be raised to make it all happen. 

At their meeting Monday evening, the issue was tabled by commissioners after 45 minutes of public input, with no set time to revisit it.  Two of the city's five commissioners were absent.