Despite the snow and ice, the Limestone County Commission meeting room was standing room only Monday morning as members of the community came to voice their concerns regarding the closing of the Athens-Limestone Hospital Wellness Center pool. The Athens-Limestone Hospital announced in early November its intention to close the pool at the end of 2021. As a result, patrons of the pool have united in an ongoing effort to keep the pool open.
In a letter from Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly to ALH President Traci Collins, Dec. 23, 2021, he writes, “The County Commission respectfully requests that the Hospital maintain the status quo with respect to the operation of the pool and slightly delay the closing of the pool until January 31, 2022. The County Commission intends to have a vote in January of 2022 to determine if it will pay what it understands is the monthly operational cost of the pool of $14,625 to the Hospital from January 2022 through December of 2022. “Subject to legal authority and a vote of the County Commission in the affirmative, it would potentially make these payments in order to enable the hospital to keep the pool open through 2022 and during that time explore with the city and others whether a more permanent solution can be achieved for the continued operation of the pool. Of course, if not legally feasible or if the vote fails, then the County Commission would not be able to pay the operating costs of the pool for January of 2022 or any other month.”
In response to Daly’s letter, Collins wrote, “In response to your letter of Dec. 23 and request on behalf of the Limestone County Commission for the Hospital to consider delaying the planned closing of the Wellness Center pool and pool facilities (“pool”) on December 31, we will not agree to delay the closing of the pool through January 31, 2022, but will agree to extend the closing through the end of normal pool hours on January 7, 2022. … For us to leave the pool in operation at this time and for 2022, a funding commitment will need to be made and expressly agreed to that, both, pays to the Hospital at least $14,625 per month for ongoing monthly operating costs and repairs, and provides for an additional obligation to replace the Desert Aire dehumidification system. The estimated cost of the replacement of the dehumidification system is $250,000, which amount is in addition to other HVAC updates forthcoming at the facility. Further, the Desert Aire system is 23 years old. If it goes out, the pool will be out of service immediately.”
The commission voted 3-1 Monday morning to approve funding to the hospital for a monthly appropriation in the amount of $14,625 for ongoing operational costs and repairs for the Athens-Limestone Hospital Wellness Center’s pool. The appropriation will be distributed no longer than Dec. 31, 2022, and should the pool become inoperable despite the given appropriation, then the appropriation will be stopped immediately. No vote was brought forward concerning the dehumidification system Collins’ letter referenced.
Commissioner Danny Barksdale was the nay vote to the appropriation. “On the Wellness Center, hopefully we will have good luck with that and come up with a self-sustaining solution. I am all for the Wellness Center. I just want it to support itself,” Barksdale said at the meeting.
Barksdale said after the meeting that he is concerned about the precedent that is being set: “We are being asked for $14,625 per month to subsidize the pool operation of the Wellness Center. That’s $175,000 per year. My understanding is that there are less than 100 people using the pool, so that is $146 dollars per month per individual. That is a slippery slope of the county funding individual wellness care to an outside entity.”
Commissioner Jason Black, who voted to approve the appropriation, changed his mind about the vote shortly before the meeting.
“I wasn’t going to vote for it this morning. I talked to a few people and had a suggestion to call some people and talk to them about it. This $14,625 comes from an account we can’t spend anywhere else. It’s money well spent,” he said.
In other business, the commission approved the following items of business:
Resolutions and orders
• Resolution to allow the chairman to execute and submit an application with appropriate assurance to the State of Alabama, Department of Economic and Community Affairs requesting Appalachian Regional Commission Grant funds in the amount of $1 million and $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to construct improvements to Mooresville Road. The Limestone County Commission will commit to a local match of $200,000 in the form of labor and equipment required to construct a portion of the proposed road improvements.
Contracts, agreements and grants
• A Memorandum of Agreement by and between the City of Madison and Limestone County Commission for the resurfacing of Bowers and Segers Roads.
• Approved to hire Emrey McGill as corrections officer, pending drug screening.
• Approved to hire Christian Pack as corrections officer, pending drug screening.
• Approved to promote Justin Flanagan to Chief Deputy, effective January 1, 2022.
• Approved to promote Hope Wood to Tag and Title Supervisor in the License Commission Office.
• Approved to promote Johnna Ehlendt to Office Supervisor in the License Commission Office.
• Amended the staffing plan to add a “Facilities Tech” under “Maintenance of Facilities & Grounds” and approve “Facilities Tech” job description.
• Preliminary and final approval for Limestone Ranches Subdivision to replat lots 126 and 127. Located in District 1, this is a minor subdivision located on the south side of Betramville Road approximately ile east of East Limestone Road.
• Preliminary and final approval for McMunn Estates, a minor subdivision with three lots in District 4 located on McMunn Lane approximately 200’ southeast of AL Hwy 251 intersection.
• Preiminary and final approval for Kyle Subdivision a minor subdivision of four lots in District 2 located on the southeast corner of Wells Road and Tide Lane intersection.
The next Limestone County Commission meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex, 100 South Clinton Street.