City pool might be closed for third summer in a row
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The City of Darlington’s public pool on Gary Street may be closed this summer for the third year – but this time, the problem isn’t COVID-19.
Officials don’t know yet if or when the pool might be able to open because they haven’t yet been able to line up a pool operator – a qualified person or company to take responsibility for running the facility day by day, said Darlington County Recreation Director Lee Andrews.
“We don’t know,” Andrews said after discussing the issue with Darlington City Council May 3. “(City officials) just want me to go out and find out, for them, if anybody would be able to do it or what the cost would be to start it up.”
“If you don’t have one on staff,” Andrews said, “it’s hard for somebody to take responsibility for a public pool … to run the pool, make sure the chemicals in it are OK, make sure all the pumps are working properly.”
In 2020, Andrews said, COVID completely knocked out the city’s pool. Late in the summer of 2021, he said, officials tried to open it for a while, but no one could be found to operate the pool. The city pool hasn’t had a normal summer season since 2019.
Cost is another issue the city will have to consider. Andrews estimated the price of running the city pool for three months would be about $8,000 a month, or about $25,000 total.
“I don’t think $8,000 a month is a lot,” City Council member Sheila Baccus told Andrews during the council’s discussion. She said that the city contributed $15,000 for the Darlington Chamber of Commerce’s annual Fourth of July festival – “$15,000 for firecrackers,” Baccus said.
Also last week, council took a final vote on moving up its regular meeting time from 6:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., partly to help avoid meetings that go into the night and partly to bring itself more in line with other local governments. (The county School Board meets at 6; so does County Council. Hartsville City Council meets at 5:30.)
The change takes effect at City Council’s next regular meeting in June, said city spokeswoman Lisa Bailey. Citizens wanting to speak to council will still get up to five minutes each, but council is limiting the total time for comments to half an hour.
Council also signed off on a rough rendering of the plan for the city’s recreation complex off Harry Byrd Highway, which is still a work in progress. The rendering features six 300-foot fields and two 200-foot fields. Andrews told council the initial plan has pretty much all the things council wanted “except for the go-kart track.”
The city also OK’d purchasing $49,000 worth of equipment to maintain the recreation complex – a tractor for cutting grass and a tractor for “dragging ballfields,” Andrews said.