Council and Commissioners have their say

Chris Ramey covered this meeting for WTRE news

The Decatur County Council and the Decatur County Commissioners met in a special session on Tuesday
12/5/23. The pool and its funding options were the topic of conversation during the meeting. All council
attended with Ernie Gauck coming late due to a pre-scheduled appointment. Tony Blodgett and Mark
Koors were in attendance, with Jeremy Pasel attending via Zoom.
The meeting began with the pledge, and Danny Peters, Council President stated, “Kenny (Hooten) you are
the one who called this meeting the floor is yours.”
Kenny Hooten said he asked for this meeting because he wanted to discuss possible alternatives to fund
the pool remodel or rebuild. He stated that we must start making decisions. He said that he attended the
last Pool Committee meeting and wanted to see what the council members were thinking about funding.
Kenny stated that right now we have 3 million dollars, what are we going to do as a council to put some
money in?
Danny stated, “I am willing to put in 1 million and that’s about where I am willing to put in.” Referring to
EDIT funding that the county currently has or financing for a 5-6 year loan with EDIT funding to provide
the 1 million dollars in addition to the 3 million that is already been pledged via Readi grant and matching funds.
During discussions, the pool project is currently projected to cost 3-10 million dollars. When asked where
that money will come from by those in attendance. Kenny Hooten stated, “We have never seen what we
can get for the funds that we currently have. We have 3 million and now possibly 4 million dollars. Have
we gone out and asked what can be built or remodeled for that amount?” The answer was no from the
Pool Committee.
Melanie Nobbe asked, “Aren’t there grants available for this project.” Deanna Burkart replied, “No, we
don’t qualify for many of the grants that are available.”
Fundraising plans were brought up and Deanna stated, “Donations have been foundering due to the
current economy. We have looked at other local campaigns and can see that they are reduced.”
Bryan Robbins who is Economic Development Director and a member of the Decatur County Parks and Recreation Board stated that of the responses that they have received from firms is that they would
provide a concept for a 3-4 million dollar, 6-7 million dollar, and a higher option pool concept. He states
the next step is interviewing those firms. Commissioner Tony Blodgett stated, “We need to have an
amount of money we are looking to spend so we do not reach out and ask for these high dollar concepts
but we can only do a 4-5 million dollar pool. We need a budget and a true picture of money that is
available in place to lead the project”
Deanna stated, “The money that we currently have and plans were for creating a pool that would draw
people into the community and not just refurbish a hole in the ground.”
The Council then asked Commissioner Mark Koors for his thoughts on the project. Koors stated, “I
believe after attending these meetings and listening to the community we need to see what the 4 million
dollars being proposed will get us as far as the pool.”

Commissioner & Pool Committee member Tony Blodget stated, “The current lowest plan that they have
is for a 6.6 million dollar pool. That would include zero entry, slide(s), a diving well, a lap area, and a
lazy river. Blodgett then asked the Council, “What would you like to see the pool have such as
equipment and offerings?” Kenny Hooten stated, “Our responsibility as a governing body is how we fund
the project, it is not for us to pick and choose what goes into the project. That is up to the pool committee.
Also up to the Commissioners once a budget is determined by the council members.”
Teresa Kovacich, Parks & Recreation Executive Director stated, “When we started this project
approximately two years ago we knew we needed a pool. We toured other surrounding counties and then
created a plan off that. We have spent a lot of time on creating this plan and we did go with the gold
design knowing that we could take away options as needed.”
Council member Ashley Hungate stated, “We should move forward with the two lower options, and then
the third option could be considered if F&B tax is approved. However, we need to know where we are on
the building of the pool or refurbishment. I need more information and from what I heard at our meetings the public needs more information.”
After further discussion about the lower project estimates. Deanna Burkart stated, “No one is talking
about options they are just cutting the ideas.”
Pasel asked, “Where do the 1 million dollars come from? We
didn’t have money for the highway garage or the remodeling of it, or the work needed on the annex.
When we last met we were told that we didn’t have any extra money.” Danny Peters responded, “I have
been working with Reuben on a way to borrow the money with EDIT funds which would be a five to six-
year payment from the bank.” Commissioner Blodgett stated he was in agreeance with Pasel as to the
money that wasn’t available but is now. He then asked about funding the Annex work that needs to be
done, budgetary items, and other county needs. Kenny Hooten stated, “We are here for the pool.”
Danny Peters stated that right now the food and beverage yearly revenue is expected to be approximately $539,000. He states that he spoke with the County CPA and that he drew up an estimate and his estimate comes out to approximately $330,000. Danny stated, “So we don’t even know what the Food and Beverage revenue will be.” Deanna stated, “I find a lot of holes in Reuben’s (CPA) theory.” Danny
replied, “Even if he is off $100,000 that is still a difference.”
Kenny Hooten again attempted to bring the meeting back to the pool. He stated, “We have to start
somewhere and quit going in circles.”
Deanna then said, “I think we should be talking about ways to reduce another tax in the community to
offset the food and beverage tax.” Kenny Hooten then said, “We must have a pool, there is no question
about that.” Danny Peters agreed with Kenny Hooten and also stated that he is against the additional
strain that the food and beverage puts on the business owner. Deanna stated, “It’s just excuses. We are
probably now looking at a 2026 opening when we were hoping for a 2025 opening.”

Further discussion was made about the North Vernon pool having a smaller footprint and it came with a
cost of 3.2 million in 2020. The North Vernon pool is 4,375 square feet and the current pool area is 7,930
square feet. The council answered questions from those in attendance including a question about the
innkeeper tax, to which Danny Peters replied the innkeeper tax goes directly to tourism. During this
meeting, nothing can be voted on as it is a special meeting. The meeting was called to an end with no
further discussion.
After the meeting, I spoke with County Council member Melanie Nobbe and she stated ”If we can use
some EDIT funds, that could help with this project. I am not sure how much it would help at this point.
As far as the food and beverage tax I am still on the fence. Honestly, we have not heard from the majority
of the taxpayers in the county. These meetings are not bringing us any closer to a pool. When we are
having these meetings it leaves those in attendance with more questions. We must come up with
Also speaking with Commissioner Tony Blodgett, he stated “As commissioner, I believe that when
making decisions as to the financing of a project we must take into consideration the needs of the county, not just today but for 10 to 15 years. Then we make a financial plan for that. I hope today was a good start in that conversation at a public level. Transparency in the spending and the financial status of our local government is important to me, and I hope to keep increasing that.”

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