Swimming in projects, Hilton Head Town Council passes on aquatic center

bheffernan@islandpacket.comDecember 1, 2012 

Town officials decided Saturday that now isn't the time to dive into the creation of a new aquatic center on Hilton Head Island.

During the final morning of a three-day strategic planning retreat in Beaufort, members of Hilton Head Town Council voted that an aquatic facility would remain "on the horizon" of the town's five-year agenda, but progress wouldn't come next year.

Council members said the town can't afford to do it all, and other capital projects, including Coligny-area development; the Chaplin linear park and boardwalk; and the financially troubled Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, claimed higher priority.

Before a 5-2 vote to keep the aquatic park on the agenda, Mayor Drew Laughlin said making the aquatic center a priority was less important "because we're not going to make a decision on this in the next year anyway."

Council members John McCann and Bill Harkins were the dissenting votes. Harkins said he didn't expect the economy to improve enough in the next four years for the town to afford it.

The aquatic center proposal, estimated to cost $7.6 million, recommended a free-standing facility in Chaplin Park that would feature an eight-lane competition pool, a three-lane warm-up pool and "splash pad" play area for children.


Town Council meetings will stay confined to spectators within the council chambers after council members opted by a 4-3 vote Friday to not broadcast or live-stream meetings.

The two newly elected councilmen, McCann and Marc Grant, along with Councilwoman Kim Likins, voted in favor of making video of the meetings publicly viewable, both for the sake of transparency and to provide access to Hilton Head residents who are unable to attend the biweekly 4 p.m. meetings.

Town staff suggested that streaming the meetings online wouldn't cost much, but Councilman George Williams and others said they were concerned about the uninteded negative consequences, including increased occurrences of "soapboxing" by council members and citizens during the public comment, which would make meetings longer.

"It will change the way that issues are discussed," Laughlin said.

Furthermore, Councilman Lee Edwards said that only those who are truly interested in Town Council topics attend the meetings. That few people show up, he said, is an issue of desire, not accessibility.

Approved meeting minutes are available online after the next council meeting.

Related Content

  1. Chaplin Park site eyed for aquatics center Nov. 10, 2012
  2. Hilton Head committee endorses ambitious plans for rec center expansion, Jan. 4, 2011.
  3. Town Council Minutes

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