Orange Mayor Larry Spears Jr. Thursday said he thinks the city could repurpose the natatorium into a community center with basketball and volleyball courts.
The council today during a budget workshop traveled to the natatorium to see some of the repairs that are needed. The pool is not open this summer because of a lack of a supervisor to oversee young lifeguards.
The council decided not to pay $90,000 in the new budget year to drain, repaint and caulk the pool itself. The council also decided not to open it next summer and save about $65,000 for operating costs.
The current proposed budget for the 2019 year had a deficit of $977,000, but the council Thursday afternoon made cuts here and there. For instance, the council decided to buy three new police vehicles instead of four.
The general fund budget is still at a deficit, but the city has reserves to cover. The general fund pays for most regular city operations like police and fire protection, parks, planning and zoning, plus street maintenance. The proposed budget for the general fund is at $22.1 million, which comes from property taxes, sales taxes, franchise taxes and fees.
The enterprise fund is for water and sewer services and is self-funded through customer payments.
Spears proposal will be in the future and will need studies on what needs to be done to fill in the pool and repurpose the building. He said perhaps the city could use money from an upcoming bond sale to turn the natatorium into a community center.
District 2 Councilor Brad Childs said he wants to know how much a study and site plan drawing will cost for the natatorium.
The council agreed to pay about about $25,000 to maintain the natatorium with basic utilities and chemicals so it does not deteriorate.
The council learned at the budget workshop that the total cost for a police officer to work with current code enforcement officer John D. Taylor would cost from $91,814 to $110,989 a year. The total costs include taxes and family health insurance. Family health insurance costs the city about $21,000 a year for each employee. Hiring a civilian for the job would cost $68,317 to $87,761 a year.
District 1 Council Pat Pullen had asked about the costs as a way to clean up the city. He mentioned that fines could help pay for a position, but City Manager Dr. Shawn Oubre said “We are not in the business of getting revenues from fines.”
The council is not adding a code enforcement position to the new budget. Childs questioned how the council could explain to citizens the addition of a code officer when the budget is more than the projected income for the year.
Oubre said perhaps citizens could help with watching for trash and grass violations. He said the city could provide a golf cart for a neighbor to patrol a neighborhood a couple of times a week and report problems.
The proposed budget, along with final budgets for the past few years, are on the city’s website. To get to the budgets, look at the index bar at the top for “Departments and Services.” Go to the Finance Department and a link to the budgets is there.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-