A majority of New Baltimore City Council voted to halt the proposed leasing of the Anchor Bay Aquatic Center for recreational uses at a Monday night meeting inside Middle School North.
"They're looking for an excuse to delay this," New Baltimore Mayor Larry Smith, who was in favor of the lease, said after six votes were cast against the deal. "This was a determined thing before this meeting happened."
The aquatic center has an Olympic-size swimming pool and facilities located between Lighthouse Elementary school and Middle School North. The lease agreement that was discussed at the meeting would have cost the city $180,000.
The proposal to lease the Aquatic Center for the recreation department was an attempt to alleviate budget woes in the Anchor Bay School District and broaden the resources and facilities of the recreation department. But concerns about longterm costs and possible losses on the deal kept the council from committing to the idea.
"All of this burden would be going on the taxpaying residents of New Baltimore," Councilwoman Susan Burkhardt said.
Many concerns of the citizens included increase in taxes and confusion over how the city could guarantee that money would eventually be made off the deal. Others in favor of the lease were worried about residents having to go other places for their children's recreational activities, and how the lease would be the shot-in-the-arm the aged and ailing recreation center in New Baltimore could use.
"I presented everything they wanted me to," said Carlos Aprea, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director. "Either way, I'm still going to do the best for this community with whatever facility. I have the residents best interest in heart."
City Council candidate Karl Rutledge was one of the concerned citizens who spoke on behalf of improving the recreation department.
"Let's give something to the parents with kids in this town," said Rutledge. "Something to get them to stay here, to live here. The people with children have more of a vested interest."
Smith says he will talk to Anchor Bay School District Superintendent Leonard Woodside about other options to try to reduce the cost. At press time, Smith was not sure if he would be ready to represent any ideas to the Anchor Bay Board of Education at the next meeting Wednesday.
"I'm certain I can get $110,000 knocked off. Recreation is the heartbeat of any good city. This is our kids, our future," he said. "Win, lose, or draw, I don't want the discussion to stop."