By Jesse Wood
July 10, 2014. Scott St. Clair, the president of High Country Recreation, appeared before the Watauga County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to advocate for a community recreation center and request funds for a site analysis of the swim complex site off of State Farm Road in Boone.
After it was found that a YMCA wasn’t viable in Watauga County, proponents of the community recreation center have ventured out into different parts of the community to gauge the interest of the public. Throughout these meetings and surveys, St. Clair said that the swim complex has been identified as a viable location due to its central location, existing recreation infrastructure and other amenities.
The county also spends hundreds of thousands of dollars maintaining the swim complex, which has been called a “money pit” by commissioners in the past.
As for funding of this site analysis?
Years ago, the late Dr. Bill Horn, a pediatrician in the area, spearheaded a committee that raised money for the recreation center effort. Those funds were placed into the safe hands of the N.C. Community Foundation to be used in the future for the purpose of building a recreation center in Watauga County. Currently, St. Claire said about $20,000 is in the account.
Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque said that his office was waiting to hear back from the foundation to see whether or not those funds could be used for the site analysis. Because of this, St. Clair requested that the county be a “backstop” if those funds can’t be utilized for this initial analysis.
Before St. Clair clarified the “backstop” measure, Commissioners Nathan Miller and David Blust didn’t seem too receptive to the idea of funding a recreation center. Miller mentioned that local taxpayers had the opportunity to vote for the funding of a recreation center in 2010 by raising the sales tax ¼ of a penny. This measure didn’t pass.
“The voters spoke and, in my terms, that is a better gauge of what people want than a survey,” Miller said.
The commissioners tabled the request until hearing back from the foundation first to see if those funds could be used. However, the commissioners did go ahead and unanimously agree to allow the grant to run through the county– if it is received – and disperse funds not to exceed $10,000 for the hiring of an architect, site analysis and renderings of the swim complex site.
“This is baby steps towards a final solution,” Commissioner John Welch said, adding that
In an email on Thursday, St Clair said, “To move forward in a wise and informed way, we need some expertise to evaluate that site to see what type of facility could go there.”