PADUCAH — The Paducah Board of Commissioners approved two ordinances Tuesday evening that will help pay for an indoor aquatic and recreation center.
One of the ordinances allows the city to issue $22 million in bonds to cover the costs of building and equipping the facility. The other will raise the city's insurance premium tax from 6% to 7% to help cover the interests and principal payments associated with the issuance of the bonds.
The tax increase will be effective on July 1, 2020. As for the bonds, the city hopes to begin selling them to investors in January, said City Manager Jim Arndt.
During Tuesday's Paducah City Commission meeting, Mayor Brandi Harless, Commissioner Sandra Wilson and Commissioner Brenda McElroy voted to approve the ordinances.
"We found documentation from the Parks Department from 1966 that our community has been talking about the need for an indoor recreation and aquatics facility," said Harless.
But Commissioner Richard Abraham voted no on both ordinances. Commissioner Gerald Watkins was unable to attend the meeting.
Abraham said while "he's totally for fitness," he's concerned about the indoor aquatic center competing with local businesses.
"One of the things that kept turning in my head is that I don't want to compete with the private sector. If I'm a private sector guy, I don't mind competing with the guy across the street. We both selling burgers. Let's see who got the best burgers," said Abraham. "However, I don't want to compete with a municipal."
Wes Hagan, owner of the Paducah Athletic Club, shares the concern.
"We have gym equipment, we have all the athletic facilities that they're talking about — rock climbing, swimming pools, water aerobics classes. The whole business, it's a direct competition," said Hagan. "Hopefully, people will see that maybe the city needs to spend their money somewhere else."
Hagan added that his business is still about $1 million in debt from constructing an eight-lane swimming pool for the Paducah Swim Team to use.
The indoor aquatic and recreation center will be built at Noble Park, where the ball diamonds currently are. Preliminary floor plans from the Nashville-based firm, Lose Design, show the two-story, 60,000-square-foot facility will feature ball courts, a pool with eight swimming lanes, recreational pools, a rock wall, a walking and jogging track, and more.
Arndt had told Local 6 in a previous interview he hopes construction can begin around fall of next year, and be completed by late 2021 or early 2022. As for how much it will cost the public to use the facility, Arndt had said the membership fees have not been determined. But the rates will be competitive, and city leaders are also looking into scholarship programs to help people who cannot afford the membership fee.
While Abraham voted against both ordinances Tuesday, the other city leaders said they are excited about what the facility can do for the community.
"It's going to rain through Thanksgiving, you all, what am I going to do with my grandchildren?" said McElroy. "These are the kind of things where kids an stay active."
"It will also help us to develop a legacy here in Paducah, and it's time that we outshine these surrounding areas," said Melanie Patel with Friends of the Park.