KEYSER - Given a choice to keep the swimming pool open another summer or give the city employees a raise, the Keyser City Council opted for the latter Wednesday and voted to shut the pool down.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Given a choice to keep the swimming pool open another summer or give the city employees a raise, the Keyser City Council opted for the latter Wednesday and voted to shut the pool down.
The decision was a split vote which required a tie-breaker, however, and came after a quite lengthy and often heated discussion about the future of the pool.
Citizen Damon Tillman set the contentious tone for the debate when he asked the council what they were planning “to do for the kids of this town” if they voted to close the pool for good.
He asked the council members if they had applied for any grant funding for  the pool, implying that they had not.
“Last year, Karol Ashenfelter got something from Mara (Boggs, state representative for Sen. Joe Manchin), but that’s the last time they’ve heard from the City of Keyser about the pool,” he said, adding that “according to Charleston, there is money out there for this. Plenty of money.”
“Let me ask you,” Ashenfelter shot back, “you’re standing over there criticizing … how many grants have you written?”
Tillman insisted that he was not criticizing; just asking a question.
Both council member Eric Murphy and Jen Jenkins, who serves as the city’s parks and recreation commissioner, said they were in favor of keeping the pool open and also seeking grants for a new pool.
When it was suggested to again delay a decision on the pool, several members of the audience asked which council member had placed the item on the agenda for a decision during Wednesday’s meeting.
“I had it put on the agenda,” City administrator Randy Amtower said. “And the reason I put it on the agenda is the council is wanting to give raises. My comment is … you can’t do both.
“I have to have an answer on the pool. If you vote to keep the pool open, then the raises are a dead issue.
“We don’t have money in the budget to do both.”
According to Amtower, it cost the city $59,125.67 to operate the pool for six weeks this past summer. The city had budgeted $41,140.
With the only revenue generated by the facility being $6,151.75,  there was a shortfall of approximately $11,800.
Ashenfelter said she felt there wasn’t enough attendance at the pool last summer to warrant keeping it open.
“I would like to keep the pool open as much as anybody else, but it’s not financially feasible,” she said.
“Most of the people I’ve talked to have asked, ‘Why are we keeping that pool open?’” she added.
“We just don’t have the money to do what everyone wants; I think the money could be much better spent,” council member Terry Liller said.
“You try to go with what does the most good for the greatest amount of people. The number of people using that pool now is a fraction of what it once was,” he said.
“I think the answer is to find a way to build a new pool that serves more people.”
Again, Tillman asked the question: “What is the city council going to do for the youth?”
“What do you suggest?” Ashenfelter asked him.
“I’m not on the council, Karol. I’m asking you,” Tillman replied.
At one point, Ashenfelter returned to the original question - keep the pool open or give the city employees a raise.
“I would rather the city employees get a raise than 19 people be able to swim,” she said, referring to the low attendance at the pool.
She then made a motion to close the pool for the year, therefore freeing up the money for employee raises.
“I’d like to second that, but I don’t want to completely close the door,” Liller said. “It’s only permanent to the extend that we make it permanent.
“But as it stands right now, I don’t think we have a choice,” he said.
The vote on Ashenfelter’s motion to close the pool was 2-2, with she and Liller voting for and Jenkins and Murphy voting against.
With mayor Ed Miller absent from the meeting and finance commissioner Sonny Alt temporarily filling his seat, it fell to him to break the tie.
“I’ll go along with closing it,” Alt said, noting that he’d like to go back and discuss it again after the first of the year.