Pocahontas voters approve tax plan to fund water park

A rough draft of the proposed water park
A rough draft of the proposed water park

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT)-  Both half-cent sales tax proposals on the hotly contested issue HAVE passed. The Randolph County Clerk's Office reports both proposals earned the approval of voters, but only by narrow margins.  

The County Clerk's Office says for the first half-cent sales tax, 484 people voted for the tax increase, while 420 voted against it. On the second half-cent sales tax, 482 people voted for the increase and 419 people voted against it.

The Pocahontas City Pool has been around since 1962. It's had upgrades over the years, but city officials say that now, they're putting band aids on band aids to keep it open.

The problems seem to never end for Parks Director, Jay Matheny.

"Huge cracks here that we wind up having to replace and fill every year," Matheny said in regards to one area of the pool. "I would say in a week, we lose several thousand gallons of water up here."

Matheny said their problems go beyond the actual pool too.

"If they entered through {the bathroom} here, it's probably not so bad, they could get a wheelchair through here, but our toilets aren't handicap accessible," Matheny explained.

He said those band aids they put on the problems will only last for so long.

"Financially, the city is not going to be able to afford some of these repairs," Matheny said.

Though the Health Department has okayed the pool to open up this summer, it could be a temporary opening.

"They put us on a provisional opening," Matheny said. "Barring a catastrophic event, we should be okay this season."

City officials are hoping the solution will come in the form of a multi-million dollar water park, which has now received approved funding through taxes.

"7.5 million dollars, which is a substantial amount of money, we'll all agree to that," Mayor Frank Bigger told Region 8 News.

As both half-cent sales taxes passed, the 2-percent hamburger tax in Pocahontas will be abolished.

"The first half will be to pay down the bond issue, which we estimate will take about 10 years," Bigger explained. The second half cent sales tax will stay in place to pay for maintenance and upkeep of all parks and recreation in Pocahontas.

"We think it'll bring some tourism to Pocahontas," Bigger said. "For surrounding communities that don't have a pool complex like this."

"The issues up there are getting to be so expensive that we're either going to have to do something or shut the pool down," Matheny said.

Mayor Bigger says the new facility should be open for next summer now that voters have given the OK.

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