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Southampton Town residents who have waited more than 20 years for the municipality to construct some type of recreational pool complex might not have to wait much longer.?A new plan introduced by Town Services Management Administrator Richard Blowes at a Town Board meeting on Tuesday—and which is expected to receive the support of board members at a special work session this Friday—will allocate funds from the town’s capital budget to finance the construction of both the Southampton Aquatic Recreation Center and Westhampton Community Center.?If all goes according to plan, a ribbon-cutting ceremony could happen as soon as July, according to Mr. Blowes.?His proposal earmarks $8.75 million in capital funds to pay for the construction of the pool complex and another $4.5 million to finance the new community center, both of which will be built on Mill Road in Westhampton. The town is still in negotiations to purchase 5.6 acres on the south side of Mill Road from the Bauer family of Westhampton to accommodate the pool complex and community center.?This spending tactic is part of a new scheme to solidify town finances and ensure that funds from the capital budget are not being spent on operational costs and other annual expenditures. Rather, town officials say that annual costs should be paid with property taxes and other guaranteed fees.?As it stands now, the town has an opening balance of $2.75 million to finance the construction of the pool complex. Officials also intend to earmark $2 million annually over the next three years—or $6 million in total—from the town’s capital budget to pay for the projects.?Similarly, the $4.5 million price tag for the community center will be spread out and paid over 2008 and 2009, with $2 million set to be allocated each year. The town already has $500,000 designated for the community center that will be built on the same lot as the pool complex.?With the town now committing to the construction project up front, the Southampton Aquatic Recreation Center’s Board of Directors will be responsible for operating the facility when it is completed. Board members will also be responsible for continuing to raise funds to defray the annual operating costs of the complex. In addition, an endowment fund will also be established that will help subsidize membership fees for those residents who are unable to afford them, according to Mr. Blowes.?”This is a great investment,” Mr. Blowes said. “This pool is going to be a great asset for the town.”?SHARC Board of Director President Walter Stockton, speaking in front of the Town Board on Tuesday night, thanked Mr. Blowes and members of the board for making the pool project a reality. Richard Stott, another member of the Board of Directors who has been working on bringing a pool to Southampton Town from the beginning of the process, passionately voiced his support for the move.?”This is the single most important thing the town has ever done, in my opinion,” Mr. Stott said. “This will save lives, because it will teach kids to swim, will help rehabilitate those who have been injured or sick, and it will provide the elderly with a way to keep going and stay active and involved in the community.”?The recreation complex is expected to feature two indoor pools and several multipurpose courts. The town had also intended to offer walking trails at the site, but that plan changed after it opted not to construct the pool complex on 17 acres of town-owned land on Old Country Road in Westhampton.?The Town Board is expected to adopt Mr. Blowes’s proposal on Friday.?Mr. Blowes, along with new Town Comptroller Steven Brautigam, have pushed for town officials to rely less on mortgage taxes, which can fluctuate from year to year, for keeping taxes low. Instead, they are pushing board members to use mortgage tax revenue to pay for large-scale projects, such as the pool complex, that are essentially one-time expenditures.?Mr. Blowes has argued that in light of a housing market slowdown, mortgage tax revenues might not be as reliable as they have been in the past. Capital funds, in the opinion of both Mr. Blowes and Mr. Brautigam, are more easily adjusted to economic shifts as they are spent over time. This philosophy has been welcomed by the town officials.?Town Board member Anna Throne-Holst, who said she totally supports funding the construction of the pool and community center, believes dipping into the capital budget for affordable housing would be another sensible and worthy financial move for the town to take.?”But I’ve raised three children in this community, and I know firsthand how important such a facility as this is for the town,” she added, referring to the pool complex.

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