Beaufort County to double funding of Hilton Head pool

bheffernan@islandpacket.comJune 25, 2013 

Instructor Kelli King watches at right as Amelia Stinson, 6, of Bluffton, jumps into the Island Recreation Center pool during a swim lesson on Tuesday.

JAY KARR — Jay Karr Buy Photo

A Hilton Head Island swimming facility will receive a $75,000 splash of extra funding from Beaufort County in the coming fiscal year, which begins next week.

The Hilton Head Island Recreation Association will receive $135,000 to cover operations costs of its pool after the Beaufort County Council passed its budget Monday. That's more than twice the amount the county funding the Recreation Association has received in each of the past six years.

Advocates of the increase called it long-overdue. It was added to the budget only after an "eleventh-hour" decision Monday, according to Councilman Rick Caporale, who represents a portion of Hilton Head Island and supported the increase.

"We got lucky," he said. "It was a very tough budget year, and we made some last-minute decisions."

Others to get last-minute funding were the Technical College of the Lowcountry, Univeristy of South Carolina Beaufort, Beaufort Memorial Hospital, and the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office.

The increase could allow the association to lower program fees, such as swimming lessons, and expand its needs-based scholarship program, according to the association's executive director, Frank Soule.

The money could also help the association overcome fundraising shortfalls. Its annual Wing Fest fundraiser was hampered by rain this past October, leaving the association $17,000 in the hole, according to Soule.

The Hilton Head pool, located on Wilborn Road, receives the least amount of money of any of the other public pools in the county, which include facilities in Beaufort, Bluffton and Burton. Each received about $323,000 from Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services in 2012, according to the recreation association.

"It was really a long-standing injustice," Caporale said. "(The recreation association) still won't get the funding other pools get, ... but the $75,000 will help, and ... it will make things a little better for them."

Bubba Gillis, who is president of the association's board of directors, agreed.

"We thought it was inequitable ... that we have more usage in the one public pool on Hilton Head ... than any of the other pools in the county do," Gillis said. "But, we were getting pennies on the dollar in comparison."

Unlike the county-run pools, the Hilton Head facility is operated by the nonprofit Island Recreation Association, which also receives money from the Town of Hilton Head Island and private donors.

The association spent about $215,000 on the pool last year. Of that, $60,000 came from the county, $83,000 was raised from program fees, and the remaining $72,000 was provided by the town and fundraising campaigns.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

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