Budget cuts might close Augusta swimming pools

Among the options as the Augusta Commission makes tough budget cuts in 2012 is the closing of three outdoor city swimming pools, Recreation Director Tom Beck said Friday.

Closing the Dyess, Fleming and Jones pools would reduce the recreation budget by about $130,000, Beck said.

According to budget documents approved by the commission last month, all departments must make percentage reductions on a sliding scale. The recreation department, among the city's largest, is expected to trim 4.25 percent, or $369,087, so additional cuts are likely.

The city's indoor Aquatics Center will remain open, Beck said. He said closing outdoor pools might be a better option for recreation because the facilities are open only during the summer, compared with closing community centers that are open all year.

Closing the pools is just one of the options Beck and other department heads have provided City Administrator Fred Russell for making budget cuts of between 1 and 4.25 percent.

Russell has said he'll begin presenting his recommendations for making the cuts at Tuesday's commission meeting.

The percentage cuts, totaling $2.8 million, aren't the only reductions Russell is looking for in the 2012 budget.

The plan approved by the commission also includes eliminating as many as 34 of the city's 2,690 employees.

Russell declined to comment Friday on where he’ll recommend making the cuts, but has said all areas might be targeted.

Recreation, which took on facilities, landscape and other maintenance functions when Russell eliminated the city's public services department earlier this year, already is down to its bare bones, Beck said.

The department had to eliminate support for the Augusta Boxing Club, which found another sponsor, and will turn over Augusta Municipal
Golf Course to a private manager.

Scottish businessman Brian Hendry’s lease of the city-owned course begins Jan. 1.

Tom Walters became the first Augusta golfer to sign up for an annual membership Friday, the same day the course's new Web site went live, Hendry said.

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